I’m at this lovely conference at Columbia University in NYC. I have to give credit to the people who put this together; it’s been a very interesting and well-organized event.
Now, I can’t actually report any of the conference proceedings, as the entire thing is being run on a “closed door basis”. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be overstepping any ethical obligations by talking a little about my impression of the emerging theme of the event.
It seems to me that the organizers (i.e. Université Paris Dauphine and Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought) have decided that SWFs are now part of the solution to modern capitalism’s many problems; that these funds have the capacity to help remedy some of the world’s intractable economic problems. Consider the first paragraph of the (publicly available) conference description:
“Global capitalism is facing the critical challenges of financial instability, shortened investment time horizons, and multiple potential ecological, social, and demographic crises. While multilateral action by national and international authorities provides some solutions to these problems, long-term investors, deploying innovative investment strategies, can also play a role in mitigating these crises.”
I have to say, I found it a bit surreal to be sitting in an event that is, for once, asking the community of SWFs to do more in the way of extra-financial investing; in effect, to start taking development, environment, and governance factors more seriously in their investment decisions. How far the debate has come from 2007 when all anybody (here in the West anyway) wanted to hear about was “commercial orientation”. More tomorrow…