Davos Digested

As the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos draws to a close, I confess to feeling both exhausted and exhilarated. Melinda Gates once said “Deep human connection is the purpose and result of a meaningful life” - and as the world finally begins to move on from COVID-19, this year’s Davos was indeed a tonic, bringing sharply into focus the overwhelming need and desire for human connectivity.

HKEX Breakfast at WEF 2022For many here, it was the first big “outing” for a couple of years, and you could feel that. People were excited to see other people, to talk, to listen, to share, and to empathise. I felt energy in Davos. That energy should not be misconstrued as overt optimism however, as people here were very aware that the world is grappling with some profound challenges – geopolitics, climate change, economic fragility, and inequality, among others. 

It also felt quieter than in previous years, and calmer perhaps. The WEF’s Davos operations supremo told me on Monday they were 20% down in delegate numbers, but it felt like more. Perhaps it was the lack of snow, the green pastures, the longer days, and the views of the mountains through the spring sun and drizzle that made it feel more open and alive. HKEX teamThe Davos diehards will tell you it’s not “Davos” without snow boots and black ice. I disagree, I like spring Davos better – less perilous than the January version.

This year it also felt very light on Asian representation. I heard Indonesia House hosted a great party, and India House was always colourful and vibrant as I walked past. But there was little representation from East Asia, broader ASEAN or the Pacific. And as always, the bulk of the African contingent seemed to be NGOs and the odd sovereign. Not enough women either. More than 50 years since WEF started and “the world” here still seems quite skewed.

The home team talked IPOs, connectivity, China, fintech, greentech, the Greater Bay Area and ESG. There was a hunger to hear what was happening in our part of the world and we took the opportunity to share our story.

Flags in DavosTo be here flying the flag for Hong Kong and our global markets was therefore especially meaningful this year.  Over the course of 50 meetings and events, more than 10 media interviews, and a host of dinners and lunches, the home team talked IPOs, connectivity, China, fintech, greentech, the Greater Bay Area and ESG. There was a hunger to hear what was happening in our part of the world and we took the opportunity to share our story and address misconceptions. It was clear that the lack of travel and face-to-face engagement over the last two years has hindered global understanding and perceptions.

In almost every conversation, there was surprise expressed about Hong Kong’s resilience, the vibrancy of our capital markets, and the immense opportunities we see ahead.That surprise was good, because it meant that our messages were landing. We enthusiastically conveyed our commitment to these and to our continuing international role. And that really is why we are here.

An unusual Davos this year, but an important one. It was a privilege to be back after a two-year absence and I come away as I always do exhilarated, energized and thoughtful. And of course, exhausted.

To next year. Spring please, Mr. Schwab!