THERE’S little news a skiier likes better than to hear that a bumper crop of snow awaits their arrival. Unfortunately, for those more focused on making a grand impression as they swoop into town aboard the classic Davos chariot – a personal helicopter – the weather has its inconveniences.
The snow was simply too much for some of the helicopters ferrying their precious cargo into town yesterday. Perturbed executives and their entourages suffered the indignity of landing 100km away from their usual helipad and being hassled into an ill-suited BMW to sit in traffic on Davos’ idyllic promenade.
Naturally, Switzerland’s trains still run on time, but their fitted ski racks lie empty, the sloped rooves they pass groan under their heavy load and Davos’ ski lifts dangle senselessly, passenger-less, as the elite hordes crowd inside to listen to this or that economic prognostication.
There’s snow accounting for tastes.
You might think it would take a fleet of tanks to keep a bank chief away from a series of all-night drinks parties offering rare chances to schmooze regulators and politicians. Not so in Davos. The great and good of the troubled lending world have been highly selective in their appearances at this year’s events.
While some, like Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit, are taking centre-stage, others are notable by their absence.
Perhaps little wonder that the UK’s state-owned banks are not represented. RBS’s Stephen Hester – no fan of the high-profile champagne-studded media encounter – and recently recovered Antonio Horta-Osorio of Lloyds are staying at home to spend more time with their balance sheets. Richard Branson, figurehead of the newly beefed up Virgin Money, has also taken the unusual decision to keep away – although we’re not sure it was in aid of an austerity drive.
And you can forgive UniCredit’s Federico Ghizzoni for not showing his face, being otherwise engaged with a difficult capital-raising (although Davos Diary does hear that some of his underwriters have been hitting the ski slopes – “Don’t worry, it's all downhill from here, folks!”).
The contrast could hardly be sharper with Europe’s emerging markets-focused behemoths: not for StanChart and HSBC the shrinking violet act. Not only are they out in force, their nightcap drinks parties will go head to head on Friday, forcing guests to decide between Asian fusion cocktails and a fireside chat with Douglas Flint at the top of a mountain.
Life’s full of difficult choices.
WHATEVER WILL BE, PWC
One of Davos Diary’s favourite bizarre haunts, the PricewaterhouseCoopers “Thought Cafe”, had its big day yesterday, hosting the launch of PwC’s CEO survey.
The cafe, a regular Belvedere Hotel installation, was in usual swanky form: think white bars, white chairs, white nylon, white orchids – and orange jellybeans.
Suave electronic tracks were piped through the sound system as guests were told that there is a high level of uncertainty among company bosses. But later on it was time for a change of mood: the track of choice? “Que sera sera”. Well, it’s not quite a business plan you can charge for, but perhaps it’s the advice some over-stressed executives need.