Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

from Africa News blog:

Can South Africa grasp Africa’s opportunity?

AFRICAINVEST-SUMMIT/GORDHANWhile Africa becomes ever more attractive for local and foreign investors, the biggest danger for its biggest economy is that it fails to seize on the opportunities it has in the changing world, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told the first Reuters Africa Investment Summit.

Plenty of short term money has flowed into South African assets – something of a headache for its policymakers as a strong rand currency makes its exports less competitive even if it helps keep inflation under control.

But Gordhan reiterated the importance of the longer term changes South Africa needs to agree upon if it is to thrive.

“The current transition and structural changes that are happening around the around the world offer South Africa huge possibilities and the risk is that we miss that opportunity,” Gordhan said, when asked about the biggest risks facing South Africa.

CFTC’s Gary Gensler just one of the “Little Monsters”

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Christopher Doering found there is more to the CFTC chairman than markets.

MUSIC-GRAMMYS/When he’s not scaring Wall Street and big banks to make sure they follow the rules, there’s a chance the head of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is moonlighting as a “Little Monster.”

The haunting moniker, used by American pop singer-songwriter Lady Gaga to describe her fans, aptly applies to the hard-working Gary Gensler who was among the thousands of fans who attended the popular performer’s show in Washington last week.

Unlikely alliance: Congressman Barney Frank and the Tea Party

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At first glance it would appear that Congressman Barney Frank and lawmakers backed by the Tea Party movement would have little in common — one is a liberal Democrat, the others are conservative Republicans.

Look again.

FINANCE-SUMMIT/Frank said his quest to reduce military spending will probably attract Tea Party lawmakers who campaigned on a platform of fiscal discipline, even to cuts in an area that typically meet strong resistance from Republicans.

HK Exchange’s Arculli plays it cool

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Spilling a piping cup of hot coffee down yourself in front of a room of journalists seconds before they start firing questions at you isn’t in your standard media training handbook.FINANCE-SUMMIT/
But 72-year-old Hong Kong Exchange Chairman Ronald Arculli, isn’t a man who gets easily ruffled. While the Reuters reporters went off in a frenzy bringing in tissues and mopping down the table, he just sat there keeping his cool,having not got a drop on his crisp white shirt or tie.

Aside from his role at Hong Kong Exchange, Arculli is a senior partner at law firm King & Wood, and his legal training shines through in interviews.

Bank regulator Walsh has pragmatic philosophy on financial crisis repeat

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John Walsh has spent many years in Washington — having worked at the Senate Banking Committee, the Treasury Department, and now as  acting Comptroller of the Currency — and has a bit of perspective on government reaction to crises over the years.

FINANCE-SUMMIT/WALSHSo he has a fairly pragmatic philosophical approach on whether U.S. efforts will succeed in making sure the financial crisis does not recur.

from Blogs Dashboard:

When is a threat not a threat?

By Kirstin Ridley

British bankers are not threatening to head for the Swiss hills. But that doesn’t mean they won’t pack their bags. So says Angela Knight, the head of the British Bankers Association.
Knight told the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit that if British-based banks such as HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered consider whether to keep headquarters in London – given the banker bashing, punitive taxation and pay restrictions imposed here -- that is merely a fact.

Speaking one day after Europe’s largest bank HSBC cut profitability targets as tougher bank regulations eat into earnings, Knight conceded that she did not expect banks to move lock, stock and barrel to Geneva – and that images of jumbo jets laden with London bankers in pinstriped suits were mere “cartoons”.
But she said the simple truth was that the British economic growth lagged that of peers, while fixed costs were rising. Britain was not an obviously attractive place to be for bankers.
To remain an international financial centre, the country needed to be clever and get its regulation right. Banks, she said, were just telling it as it is. “Is there an expectation that employment in banking will be reduced? Yes … Is there an expectation that sentiment will turn around? No,” she said. “We are living in a country and a region where the costs of operation are high and (there is) a lot of personal condemnation (of the banking industry)... so I think that we cannot pretend that somehow that has no effect and no impact.

Senator Reed sees need for speed to chase bad guys

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Ann Saphir takes a look at Senator Jack Reed’s comments on cars and trading.

With traders buying and selling at dizzying speeds these days, underfunded U.S. regulators can’t hope to keep up unless they get more funding, better resources, and faster technology — think cars,  Democratic Senator Jack Reed says.

So how plugged in is the SEC chair? (technologically speaking)

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Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro says her agency has its work cut out to compete with the massive amounts of money that private firms, policed by the SEC, pour into the latest technology.

“Can we keep up with Wall Street? I think we have a fighting chance. We’ll never have, under any circumstances, the kind of budgets that would allow us to spend a billion dollars a year on technology as some firms do, I mean that’s just not going to happen, and I totally understand that,” she said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit. FINANCE-SUMMIT/SCHAPIRO

from Chrystia Freeland:

Barton and Kleinfeld’s tips for Uncle Sam

During the depths of the financial crisis, Alcoa announced that it would lay off 13% of its global workforce, or about 13,500 people. Since then, they have built up their presence in China and Russia, finalized a new mine in Brazil, and started construction of the world's largest aluminum facilities in Saudi Arabia. Alcoa's rate of job creation in its home country of the United States, however, has been rather tepid in comparison.

Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld acknowledged that prospects for his business today were better abroad than they were at home, but he did note that in the past year Alcoa hired 1,500 people in the U.S. in the automotive and aerospace industries and so long as the United States retained its sense of entrepreneurship, creativity and excellence in higher education, jobs will come.

from Chrystia Freeland:

The revolutionary significance of job growth

It was striking to hear how encouraged both Klaus Kleinfeld and Dominic Barton sounded when Chrystia asked them about the effects of the recent turmoil in the Middle East on the business environment there. Barton believed the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt were "the dawn of a new good thing that's occurring" and noted that it is likely that new capital will come into these countries as a new leadership emerges. Kleinfeld, whose company is in the process of building the world's largest integrated aluminum system in Saudi Arabia, said that Alcoa is still very comfortable in the region and that the only surprises with their Saudi partners have been positive surprises. For Kleinfeld, the most assured way to bring about stability in a region plagued by unrest is to have businesses come in and create jobs:

If there's one thing that the Middle East needs particularly for the young -- as well as well-educated people -- it's jobs. And it does it in a region which typically has not had much of an economic growth around Ras Azzour. So that's all very, very good. And not just for us as a company but also for the region. And it's gonna have a stabilizing as well as a kind of uplifting, positive element

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