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Column by Olga Podoinitsyna, Member of the Board at VTB Capital, for Communicate Magazine

16 February 2016
Communicate Magazine
Opinion: Olga Podoinitsyna on Davos 2016 and the enduring capital of direct dialogue

Face-to-face meetings still hold power and influence at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

We have been led to believe that the status of face-to-face meetings has been eroded for much of the 21st century. The ubiquity of mobile phones, the adoption of email and the advent of inexpensive digital conference calls have led to an increasing perception that human affairs can be conducted remotely, in the ether.

However, traditionalists making a case for the power of face-to-face meetings need only look as far as the Swiss resort of Davos for a striking example of soft power at work. In a tumultuous world, the quiet conversations of Davos remind us that soft power – the ability to attract and co-opt via persuasion rather than force – still has a place.

For VTB Capital, we always relish the chance to meet our international colleagues, and continue our dialogue with the international community. Davos allows us to present our ambitions – the ambitions of a Russian investment bank with a global reach – directly to a variety of decision makers. This year marked the fifth breakfast we hosted at Davos, and again it proved to be an excellent way of fostering international dialogue. The breakfast was moderated once more by CNN host Richard Quest, and we proudly welcomed a number of leading investors and members of the media from around the world.

The meeting provided the opportunity for investors, CEOs, and regional experts to discuss the complex issues relating to global economic development. These discussions cover the pressing and varied issues of the day, and this year we mulled over issues including the situation in the oil market, the upcoming US presidential election, the Chinese economy, the current situation in Europe, and the role of Russia in the global markets. However, our conversations aren’t simply reactive; the continuity of these gatherings also afford us the opportunity to keep track of developments, mapping our guests’ evolving views. Our breakfast in Davos followed on from and directly addressed the views expressed by our guests in October 2015 at our RUSSIA CALLING! investment forum. Quest’s recurrent hosting of these events provides a natural continuity, allowing changes in the global situation to be addressed, and deviations from predictions analysed. We look forward to the next forum in October, where we can look back at January’s predictions.
It essential that there are these types of global forums that annually bring together global leaders to discuss the world economy’s most pressing issues. Maintaining a direct dialogue at the highest level is especially necessary in today’s challenging times. Events like our breakfast provide not only a forum for developing new business partnerships, but also a basis for dialogue between Russian and international experts.

While VTB Capital had a strong year, with Dealogic and Thomson Reuters both attesting to our robust results in tough circumstances, we still believe that this forum is an excellent opportunity for global banks to reset the agenda. It is incumbent upon our industry to demonstrate the centrality of finance in powering the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ and elucidate how we can help the world meet the challenges it faces in 2016. In doing so, we do well to remember the creator of the concept of soft power, Joseph Nye’s adage, that “Credibility is the scarcest resource.” It is through gatherings like Davos where this credibility can be best established. For our part, the breakfast proved to be an important tool in our communications strategy, strengthening VTB Capital’s credibility and expertise in both the Russian and international markets.

VTB Capital is valued in the industry for its ability to build business relationships based on trust, so we know the importance our clients place on it, as well as the room for development within the sector. We need to communicate that things have changed and will continue to change. Davos is an excellent forum in which to start these discussions. We are confident that this year’s meeting provided renewed succor to romantics who still believe in the power of face-to-face communication, and confirmed that summits like these are an important tool of soft power.

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