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My Experience at the 49th St. Gallen Symposium

Introduction

The St. Gallen Symposium, organised by the University of St. Gallen, received submissions from almost 1,000 contestants, representing 350 universities, and more than 100 nationalities. All contributions were evaluated equally according to a specific set of criteria by an independent jury composed of professors, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs.

The authors of the best 100 contributions qualified as Leaders of Tomorrow and received an invitation to the 49. St. Gallen Symposium. Exceptional and well-written essays by the Leaders of Tomorrow earned an all-expenses-paid participation in the global forum. This included the trip to Switzerland and covered all expenses for the flight, accommodation, and travel during the symposium, as well as the participation fee. I am very grateful that my essay Competing Forces in Financial Internationalisation: How to Evoke a Long-Termism Perspective earned an all-expenses-paid participation and I am very proud to represent King’s College London at the 49. St. Gallen Symposium.

The St. Gallen Symposium was founded in 1969 to gather key decision makers, thought leaders, and brilliant young minds to address current economical, political, and social challenges and opportunities.

7th May

My journey started at the London Heathrow Airport. Only one and a half hours after departure, I found myself at the convention desk at the Zürich Airport where other Leaders of Tomorrow already gathered. We received a free shuttle transfer to St. Gallen and were brought to our individual hosts, which study at and live in the near proximity of the University of St. Gallen. Once I arrived, I used the rest of the evening to prepare myself for the upcoming events at the St. Gallen Symposium.

8 May

The first day consisted of two workshops focusing on contemporary challenges of the corporate partner Accenture Switzerland. My essay qualified me to be a workshop facilitator and I was very excited to lead the discussions to create innovative solutions. I found it fascinating how many brilliant and diverse ideas were presented during these workshops and it was a real challenge to find common ground and create a satisfying outcome. However, being a workshop facilitator was an important and rewarding role to take on and I am glad to have received this opportunity.

Together with the other workshop facilitators, I presented the workshop results on how to regulate business purpose in front of an audience of approximately 200 Leaders of Tomorrows, consisting of 100 essay participants, 100 young entrepreneurs, and corporate executives such as Thomas D. Meyer (CEO of Accenture Switzerland).

My impression is that most Leaders of Tomorrow aim to transform the current predominant economic system by adopting a stakeholder perspective instead of focusing solely on shareholder value maximisation. Prof. Colin Mayer, Peter Moores Professor of Management Studies at Said Business School at the University of Oxford, delivered an impressive and thought provoking presentation on why corporations should aim to create the best solutions to the problems of people and planet by focusing on purpose rather than solely on profit.

“We need to have an accounting basis that incorporates human, social, and natural capital measured alongside those of financial and material capital.” – Prof. Colin Mayer

9th May

Prof. Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, gave a very thought provoking presentation on capitalism, socialism, and democracy in the age of technological disruption. Afterwards, Audrey Choi, Chief Marketing Officer & Chief Sustainability Officer at Morgan Stanley, presented her thoughts on capital and purpose. It is a promising sign that corporate executives start to rethink their roles in society and aim to include the interests of other stakeholders in their decision making.

Furthermore, I found it fantastic that the symposium provided young people with valuable access to experienced leaders. In a small group discussion with Marcus Wallenberg, Vice Chairman at Investor AB and Chairman at Saab AB, I was able to raise questions about the tensions between generating corporate profit and creating sustainable impact. His philosophy is that investing proceeds in innovations that create jobs, help people build assets, and raise their standard of living is also an important form to create impact. Finally, I participated in a session led by Prof. Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London, Founder and Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose (IIPP), and author of the book The Value of Everything. She urges to rethink capitalism and the role of public sector by redefining how to measure value in society.

10th May

During the panel discussion about Rebuilding Trust in Trade, I heard, among others, Prof. Simon Evenett, Bogolo Kenewendo, and Martin Wolf. This event was followed by a session with Prof. Simon Evenett who provided an analysis of the present and conceivable future state of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the light of the current trade war between China and the United States. Finally, I listened to the panel discussion Bridging Capital and Purpose: The Way Forward, starring, among others, Iqbal Kahn, Chief Executive Officer of International Wealth Management at Credit Suisse.

Conclusion

I am very grateful for having participated in the symposium and having met many brilliant individuals and highly recommend attending the St. Gallen Symposium. I want to say thank you to Yannick Miller, Lars John, Lino Gandola, Valentine Daendliker, and the rest of the International Students’ Committee (ISC), St. Gallen Foundation, and the Board of Trustees for the excellent organization of the St. Gallen Symposium, in which over 450 students volunteered, and for the magnitude of complementary hospitality services, which included free beverages and food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The St. Gallen Symposium offered a great platform to discuss the future and purpose of capital. I believe that one should always surround oneself with talented people who help one to achieve much more than one could ever hope to on one’s own. Therefore, I am very grateful for having met inspiring and talented individuals throughout the symposium and I hope that I will stay in contact with many of them in the future.

Copyright © 2020 Claudio Marseglia. All rights reserved.

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