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16 December 2013

Time to say goodbye…

Our regular columnist Marianne Abib-Pech says goodbye to 2013.

Author: Marianne Abib-Pech, venture capitalist and writer

December has come again, and with it the time to reflect on the past year, take stock of what we have learnt and decide on the focus for the year to come.

In 2012, we caught a glimpse of the emergence of a multipolar world, we pondered on possible economic models of the future, while noticing a strong surge of national pride in the UK thanks to the queen’s diamond jubilee and the olympic games.

What about 2013? The world has been sliding further from past models and behaviours. Everywhere, the need, the urge for change is getting stronger.

In the west, the US is facing a couple of firsts – an embarrassing budget debacle and being on the verge of transforming the global balance of power in the energy sector with impending independence.

The EU is in an increasing shambles, and the following question is at the forefront: what does leadership means for Europe?

And what is happening with France? A president at an all-time low popularity, and the emergence of new movements – such as “les pigeons”, protesting entrepreneurs – are strong signs of a growing and somewhat refreshing current of contestation. Are they the seeds of a new revolution?

The Middle East is stuck in a state of flux – the continuing civil war in Syria, Libyan power struggles and questions about Egypt. The entire region is struggling to make sense of what is to come, and posing another question: who will benefit from this state of disarray?

Qataris are on a frantic shopping spree in Europe – anything from football clubs, to banks, to property. Are they preparing for a new type of economic power?

In the east, China’s growth has slowed, Singapore is facing its first challenges, the multicultural Association of South-east Asian Nations is giving the region a competitive advantage, with a workforce of unparallelled diversity, and allowing it to generate new ideas and manage differences without resorting to conflict. The next country to watch is Myanmar, with a commitment to an extensive agenda of reforms and the sale of some state assets to stimulate private sector investment.

In 2013, we continued our alternative investments journey, including fashion, vintage cars and the London real estate market. The trend in lifestyle investment is stronger than ever. One has to look no further than the latest UBS Wealth Management report on real estate, the Financial Times’ report on silver, wine, art and gold – the so-called Swag asset class – or Morgan Stanley’s quarterly briefing on the future of wine production.

The process of satisfying the hungry lifestyle investor dormant in all of us has not changed greatly. The key criteria are much the same – provenance, rarity, traceability, building networks, and thinking with your heart as much as with your purse.

However, over the course of the year, something happened – I changed. Thanks to the serendipitous encounters of my somewhat wandering life between Europe and Asia, something deeper emerged – the need to talk about alternative ways of creating value. My article on investing in women did not resonate with readers, but investing in youth – that was number one on the Global Corporate Venturing website hit list. Thank you all.

These articles and topics came straight from this urge to consider value creation. The moment has come to say goodbye to assessing alternative investment in the way I have been doing so over the past two years. It is time to ride the wind of change, to take it further and deeper, to create a bit more meaning.

We are, and should thrive on being, professionals – leaders creating value. And as human beings, we ought to embrace our responsibility to help, think and participate in the emergence of this new world. Purpose-seeker should be our role, change should be our mission. As futurist Graeme Codrington would say: “Tomorrow is today.” As French philosopher Michel Serres wrote: “We have to rethink a way to think, create, teach and… be.’’

With this new principle, what do I have in store for 2014? I am going back on the campaign trail, with more purpose and maybe a bit more passion as well, through Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, I will look for alternative models – unassuming people, characters larger than life that I hope will inspire us all to be different, to do something different. Next year will be about fully embracing, fully unlocking our potential for better days.

We will meet the London-based hedge fund manager who uses his gift for writing to strengthen his financial performance, the woman who vanquished the Asian taboo against talking about death and made a business of it. We will follow a match made in heaven – eastern tradition and western know-how in the world of vintage products, we will meet the Colombian building the next generation of leaders, the man who coined the term Africapitalism, a young prime minister putting his country on the global map, and many, many more.

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