Charity, Philanthropy and Society

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In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Jeff Raikes (CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Eli Broad (Founder of the Broad Foundations), Sir Ratan Tata (Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group) and Anousheh Ansari (Trustee of the X Prize foundation and title sponsor of the Ansari X Prize). We discuss the fundamental nature of charity and philanthropy- looking at why these phenomena exist together with their role and impact on society. We also talk about their individual journeys in philanthropy, and how their organisations are aiming to tackle some of society’s greatest problems.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/charity-philanthropy-society.html

The Secrets of Business Planning

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An interview with Tim Berry, a world expert on business planning

Plans are the DNA of business, containing all the base information needed to form a strategic framework for the growth, direction and shape of an enterprise.

Whether you are launching a new business, growing an existing enterprise, or even creating a venture within an existing corporation- chances are the first step in your journey will be the business plan.  In fact, for those wishing to raise money (whether it be seed capital, or venture finance) the plan is certainly a pre-requisite.

Studies have shown that “except in a small number of cases, business planning appeared to be positively correlated with business success…” and that  “while analysis cannot say that completing a business plan will lead to success, it does indicate that the type of entrepreneur who completes a business pan is also more likely to run a successful business” (Ding & Hursey, 2010)

Much has been written on the business plan, and for many- it seems an almost insurmountable hurdle to write (what they anticipate will be) a thesis length piece on ever minutiae of their idea.  The reality however, is far simpler…

To learn more about the secrets of the business plan, I spoke to Tim Berry.  He is co-founder of Eugene Social,  founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co-founder of Borland International.  Tim has dedicated his life to business planning. Continue reading

Fighting HIV/AIDS – The Greatest Epidemic in Modern History.

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In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Michel Sidibé (Executive Director, UNAids), Dr. Stefano Bertozzi (Director of HIV at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall (Director of HIV Department at WHO – World Health Organisation) and Brian West (Chair of the European Aids Treatment Group, who has been living with HIV for over 25 years). We look at the very nature of the virus, its impact on society and culture globally, and discuss the opportunities to move to a world free of HIV/AIDS.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/fighting-hiv-aids-globally.html

Learning from the Holocaust

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An Interview Auschwitz survivor, Iby Knill.

In one of the darkest moments of modern civilisation, over six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany in a state-sponsored genocide.  This event (The Holocaust) killed over two-thirds of Europe’s entire Jewish population.  The Nazis, in their single-minded belief of German racial superiority, targeted any group they felt as ‘racially or ideologically inferior‘ including  Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians and so on), Socialists, Communists, Jehova’s Witnesses and homosexuals.

Believing that the Jewish people posed the greatest threat to their ideological plans, the Nazi party felt a systematic eradication of all Jewish people was the ‘Final Solution‘ to the ‘Jewish Problem‘.  As Henrich Himmler was quoted as saying, “I may here in this closest of circles allude to a question which you… which has become for me the most difficult question of my life, the Jewish question.. I have resolved even here on a completely clear solution… The difficult decision had to be taken, to cause this people to disappear from the earth.”

The level of dehumanisation witnessed in Nazi extermination camps during was staggering.  Killing was indiscriminate for those whom the party felt they had no use for, and many people were even used for human “medical” experiments.  the account of one Jewish inmate at Auschwitz (Vera Alexander) recalls, “…I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents—I remember the mother’s name was Stella—managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering….”

it took decades for the Jewish people and the rest of the world to recover from World War II, and for most of us- it is impossible to imagine how the very few survivors of such atrocities could rebuild their lives, but some did. To learn more, I spoke with Iby Knill who- as a teenager- survived Auschwitz. Continue reading

A Look at the World Diamond Market

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Guest article written for AllAboutAlpha.com – the official publication of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association

Originally posted at: http://allaboutalpha.com/blog/2013/01/27/a-look-at-the-world-diamond-market/

Diamond’s are one of the world’s most precious natural resources.  These unique stones are almost as old as the Earth itself, and have become culturally, socially, economically, politically and even  scientifically significant.  Figures from the World Diamond Council state that each year, around US$13 billion of rough-diamonds are mined (65% of which come from Africa).  The diamond value chain (from exploration, to mining, processing and retail) employs over 10 million people around the world, and jewellery sales alone (having grown three-fold in 25 years) are now in excess of US$72 billion per annum.

The diamond industry has always existed in a state of pseudo globalisation.  Over a thousand years ago, diamonds were mined in India, before being cut and polished in Arabia and sold to European aristocracy.  These are stones which have been adored for their rarity and beauty, while being almost universally accepted as portable, untraceable and efficient stores of value.   The diamond ‘industry‘ (at least as we know it today) began 1800′s, when an accidental find of diamonds in South Africa kicked off a mining, exploration and trading boom that led to the existence of one of the most successful and long-lasting cartel’s in economic history- that being the small network of world diamond producers.

The relative opacity and complexity of the diamond market has contributed to a general lack of understanding of its dynamics when, in truth, the modern form of globalisation has introduced competition, transparency and free-market behaviours to this industry.

To learn more about the world diamond market, I spoke to David Prager, Global Head of Corporate Affairs at De Beers Group – a 120 year old firm with revenues of over US$7 billion, and a market share (by value) of over 35% of the world’s rough diamond market. Continue reading

Entrepreneurship

Sir Richard Branson

In this exclusive interview, we speak to Sir Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Group). We discuss the fundamental nature of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs themselves, and the role of entrepreneurs in society and the economy. We look at the key sources of entrepreneurial ideas, characteristics of successful enterprise and the role of wealth in the entrepreneurial journey. We also look at how entrepreneurship has changed, what the future holds and how entrepreneurs are addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems from poverty and economic crises to climate change and health.

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/entrepreneurship.html

Managing Risk in Fixed Income Markets

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Guest article written for AllAboutAlpha.com – the official publication of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association

Originally posted at: http://allaboutalpha.com/blog/2012/12/20/managing-risk-in-fixed-income-markets/

At any given time, almost US$100 trillion is outstanding on the global bond market.  This is roughly twice the size of the world’s equity markets combined, amounting to almost 150% of global GDP.  Bonds and other fixed-income instruments are the foundation of how much of the world’s economy is funded.

From central banks to financial institutions, insurers and more- everyone has their eyes firmly glued to even the most minute movements in these markets.  James Carville (former political advisor to President Clinton) once said: “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or as a .400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody…”

The very word “bond” conjures up an idea of how these instruments were perceived in the market.  Bonds were typically seen as being the ultimate safe-haven instruments for a portfolio, but following the near-existential events of 2007 have showed investors otherwise.  Research shows that, “…Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), once a money making machine on Wall Street, have been responsible for $542 billion of the nearly trillion dollars in losses suffered by financial institutions since 2007…” By magnitude, this would be similar to losing the entire Deutsche Börse.

To learn more about managing risk in fixed income portfolios, I spoke to Dr. Kevin Anderson, Global CIO (Fixed Income and Currency) at SSgA (State Street Global Advisors) – a firm with  US$23.4 trillion in assets under custody and administration, and US$2.1 trillion  under management.  Continue reading

A Look at Global Financial Regulation

GFRE

Guest article written for AllAboutAlpha.com – the official publication of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association

Originally posted at: http://allaboutalpha.com/blog/2012/12/13/a-look-at-global-financial-regulation/

The fundamental principle of free market economies is that supply and demand (rather than governments) determine market prices, actions and outcomes.   In an emotion-free and ethical world, this principle would create highly efficient, safe, and stable markets.

In reality, actors participating in the financial theatre may have objectives which are misaligned with the rest of the market, and may therefore undertake actions which (aside from potentially being criminal) could cause a loss of confidence in the market or even disrupt its very stability.  It is these outcomes which financial regulators around the world aim to prevent with increasingly complex rules.  As the Economist noted, …..The first set of Basel rules on bank capital was just 30 pages long; the second go had 347 pages; Basel 3 has 616. In America the Glass-Steagall act of 1933, which separated commercial and investment banking, was a concise 37 pages; the Dodd-Frank act of 2010 ran to 848, and may spawn a further 30,000 pages of detailed rule-making by various agencies…..

The global financial crisis which began in 2007 (and incidents such as the Madoff investment scandal) revealed huge failings in domestic and international regulatory policy- meaning that many participants and stakeholders in the financial markets felt these (largely unelected) regulators simply weren’t doing their job.  In the fall-out, accusations have been raised of regulations being  “unhelpfully tough” and of regulators exceeding their remit.

To learn more about the state and future of financial regulation, I spoke to Julian Korek (Founding Member) and Jonathan Saxton (Member) of Kinetic Partners- a leading provider of tailored consulting, advisory and assurance services to clients within the asset management, investment banking and broking industries.  Established in 2005, Kinetic currently advise over 1,200 clients across eight global offices in London, Dublin, New York, Grand Cayman, Geneva, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands. Continue reading

The Plight and Promise of the World’s Children

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In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Carolyn Miles (President and CEO of Save the Children) and Dr. Jean Zermatten (Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child). We look at the plight of children worldwide- discussing issues ranging from poverty to exploitation, health to education, climate change to conflict, the media and more. We also look at the fundamental role of children in human progress, and why they are key to the future of our society..

http://thoughteconomics.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/children.html

Investing in Travel

ITRV

Guest article written for AllAboutAlpha.com – the official publication of the  Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association

Originally posted at: http://allaboutalpha.com/blog/2012/12/04/alpha-hunter-investing-in-travel/

The WTTC note that the travel industries (when taking into account their direct and indirect roles) contribute over 9.1% to world GDP, amounting to over U$6.3 trillion of economic output and sustaining 1 in 12 of all global jobs (around 255 million people).   Looking at the USA alone, travel and tourism amount to over 10% of the country’s GDP, supporting 14.4 million jobs and contributing over $120 billion in tax revenues.

This is a hugely segmented industry which (as Timothy O’Neil-Dunne states), “….inspires because it has a huge emotional component, everybody feels very attached to it.  At the same time, it’s incredibly complex- and full of mind-bogglingly stupid things that make it more complex than it needs to be….”   It is this factor of complexity which translates (to many investors) as being an indication of risk or even a lack of scale opportunities.  In the latter case, looking at just three members of one segment (the Online Travel Agency space) – Priceline (with a market cap of U$32 billion), Expedia (with a market cap of U$8.1 billion) and Tripadvisor (with a market cap of $5.4 billion) – show that this assumption, of a lack of scale, is clearly false.

The fact is, travel is one of the few industries that impacts practically everyone in the world economy.  It’s strange therefore that this is a sector lacking in investment momentum. To learn more about investing in the travel space, I spoke with Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, Managing Partner at T2Impact Ltd, co-Founder of VaultPAD Ventures and one of the original founders of Expedia.  He has published 3 books in Travel Distribution and Aviation. Mr. O’Neil-Dunne is a frequently quoted and a commentator in travel and technical journals and is a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum.

Continue reading

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