From January 22-25 the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum will take place in the otherwise somewhat sleepy ski resort of Davos, Switzerland. Over the course of 5 days, world leaders, CEOs, experts on a variety of topics and a handful of celebrities and activists will arrive in the Swiss mountains by automobile, train, chartered helicopter or private plane. It’s a massive event with about 3000 official participants (and thousands more as entourage) and as always draws endless media attention – mostly positive with some conspiracy theory comments thrown in. Participation is indeed strictly by invitation-only, and those invitations come as rare as finding “the golden Willy Wonka ticket”, as one executive once put it.
What actually happens there is for the most part, unseen and undocumented. Of course, the 250+ official sessions in the congress center are on the official program and most of these are public, but the really interesting discussions happen in the corridors, the private meeting rooms and the hotel bars. While the Aspen Institute event or the Bilderberg Group meetings are perhaps even more elusive, they’re also less immersive and comprehensive. At Davos, everyone who’s anybody will likely show up. That makes it a fascinating event where chance encounters are the currency of the day, with its own exchange rate: spotting Charlize Theron will trump having coffee with Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech. Bumping into Mick Jagger at the Young Global Leaders party is akin to finding a diamond on the street.
Celebrities aside, the world’s power-heavyweights are out in full force. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will both attend this year. So will – most likely – Angela Merkel and David Cameron. The list of who’s attending is guarded well, with even Forum insiders are being informed on a need-to-know basis. You can imagine that security is tight. Well over 3000 Swiss army troops are deployed each year to safeguard the perimeter of the alpine town, supplemented by federal police, local police and hundreds of security personnel brought in by participants. It’s an odd sight for an otherwise unremarkable ski resort.
But what is it all about? As The New Yorker put it, Davos is like ‘an exercise in corporate speed-dating’. For Deloitte however, the Davos event is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work. Unknown to many of us, a small number of Deloitte professionals support the World Economic Forum every year with projects that drive a particular issue to new frontiers. The topics that we work on with the Forum are those that matter most to our global industry leaders; cyber resilience, impact investing, the future of manufacturing – and each year we second a few of our professionals to the Forum pro bono. While the projects that we work on will have various meetings and events throughout the year, it’s Davos that is the pinnacle. Private sessions are held, insights are shared and reports are presented to the world.
The theme for this year’s meeting is “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”, which is not as lofty as it seems. Discussions at Davos will always focus on global issues, such as geopolitical dynamics or disruptive technologies that impact all of us in various ways. Just for this reason alone it’s worth keeping an eye out on what’s going on.
The Deloitte delegation is led by our global CEO Barry Salzberg, who somehow manages his calendar well enough to speak on a series of public panels, participate and lead discussions in private sessions and in addition meet with the CEOs of literally dozens of our current and future clients. You can join the debate and keep up to speed on what’s happening by following the Deloitte Davos page here and by following Deloitte on Twitter.
Alex de Leeuw
Alex de Leeuw is a Senior Manager in the Deloitte Netherlands Risk Services practice and was seconded to the World Economic Forum from 2011 – 2013 to develop the Partnering for Cyber Resilience initiative.