Safe Handling of Unstable Times

Under the motto “Uniting the World of Finance,” the WHU Campus for Finance – New Year's Conference was held January 17 and 18 in the Rhein-Mosel-Halle in Koblenz, Germany. The attention at this year’s event revolved around the question of how financial experts can successfully negotiate the fine line between risk and opportunity in times of great uncertainty. Financial experts from international banks and enterprises had traveled to this year’s lectures and discussions in hopes of getting to the bottom of current trends, threats and opportunities.

In his opening speech, Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf, Dean of WHU, emphasized in no uncertain terms the need to return to a policy of togetherness and to reflect on common values in times of rapidly growing nationalist and racist trends. All in all, the influence of political decisions and developments played a major role at this year’s Campus for Finance. Against the backdrop of Brexit, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, pleaded on behalf of cultivating a European identity while retaining individual strengths. His answer to the question of how enterprises should deal with the current climate of uncertainty was: “Recruit a very wide variety of personalities and travel the world to discover new trends.” Skills born of an open and tolerant worldview, he argued, are the engine of innovation and high-value ventures.

In a panel discussion moderated by BILANZ publisher Dr. Arno Balzer, Leonhard Fischer of Glencore warned attendees of the octopus of bureaucracy increasingly blocking the EU; he also cautioned against unnecessarily complicating the Brexit process for the British. In his opinion, a strong Europe must pursue a common market policy – independently of such other political topics as the refugee issue. His interlocutor, Dirk Holländer of zeb, argued that a simple majority vote should not suffice for a decision as momentous as withdrawing from the EU, as the acute case of Brexit has severely divided the population. The majority of young people in the United Kingdom, he pointed out, feel as though politicians have abandoned them. The experts were in agreement in their assessment of Donald Trump’s influence on the economic situation. To date, the two managers pointed out, there have been no discernible negative effects. In Germany in particular, the media landscape needs to free itself from being guided by personal sympathies. As Fischer recapitulated with regard to the US president’s tax-reform package “We need to stop immediately concluding that something is stupid just because Donald Trump is the one doing it.” All in all, this event gave the approximately 500 attendees an opportunity to obtain comprehensive information on a variety of viewpoints and strategies with regard to the current financial situation, and to visit with experts from different sectors of the economy.

The Campus for Finance – WHU New Year’s Conference is an internationally recognized financial congress organized entirely by students of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management with the support of the Endowed Chair of Finance. The conference provides a communication platform for respected academics, high-ranking politicians, leading representatives of the business community and excellent students.