The theme of the recent Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Madrid raised an interesting question: "A Whole New World: Where Do We Go from Here?" The 40 panelists and four keynote speakers in attendance offered if not answers, then certainly their opinions as to what the global community can expect over the next few years. Discussions centered on the "the new financial world;" "relaunching" private equity; "exploring the road to recovery" in such industries as real estate, energy, travel and tourism; the opportunities for companies to go international; and the role of technology and innovation in the 21st century, among other topics.
Sebastián Escarrer, vice chairman of Sol Meliá SA and the conference’s organizing committee chairman, set the tone for discussion by noting that governments alone cannot meet all the challenges of today’s interconnected world, but that, "public-private partnerships must be forged…. Survival will not be defined by the strongest, but by those best able to adapt" to the mandate for change brought about by widespread political and financial crises around the world. More than ever, he said, "we need a new vision, one that incorporates corporate social responsibility with strategies that "foster the act of listening and [encourage] the active involvement of all stakeholders."
In this special report, Knowledge at Wharton offers coverage of key topics debated during this most recent Global Alumni Forum held in the Europe, Africa and Middle East region, and including panelists, speakers and alumni from Latin America.
At the opening session of the Global Alumni Forum in Madrid, Sebastián Escarrer, vice chairman of Sol Meliá SA, Wharton dean Thomas S. Robertson and Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel each offered different observations about the state of the global markets, the outlook for reform, and the roles that companies, governments and business schools must play in a newly reconfigured economic environment.
For years, the tourism industry grew almost effortlessly. Those days are over. Tough economic conditions have awakened companies in the industry to the fact that they must better anticipate customers’ needs and reinvent their business models. That was the theme of a panel discussion at the recent Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Madrid. Panelists spoke about population shifts, the need for greater concentration in the sector and the rise of new middle class consumers with a desire to travel.
Before introducing the panelists taking part in a session during the Madrid Global Alumni Forum called "Relaunching Private Equity," moderator Raffi Amit summarized the challenges that both venture capital and private equity face at a time when investors have become more conservative, returns are down, and transactions have declined in both volume and value. Panelists offered their views on the new investment climate, and suggested strategies for coping with today’s tough economic environment.
The global energy sector is at a crossroads. Key issues such as lack of energy independence, the security of energy supplies, and climate change have become important items on the agendas of governments everywhere. This has sparked a heated debate about the most appropriate energy mix in those countries that are considering the use of nuclear power and renewable energy, and in companies that are committed to tackling climate change. These issues were discussed in depth during a panel session on the future of energy at the recent Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Madrid.
The panel at the Madrid Global Alumni Forum was titled, "The New Financial World." "So, one might ask, what happened to the old financial world?" was the question posed to Forum participants by Wharton finance professor Richard Marston, who led the discussion. Marston asked his panelists to discuss the causes of the economic crisis, the ways in which increased market volatility should be managed, and how the world can address credibility issues related to global imbalances.
New technologies and a growing capacity for innovation are playing fundamental roles in the search for answers to the current economic downturn. At the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Madrid, speakers from Spain, Rwanda and Nairobi took part in a panel that looked at the social and economic applications of technology and innovation, and how support for entrepreneurship can help raise the standard of living for those in developing countries.
When several senior executives of Spanish multinationals met recently for a panel about globalization at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Madrid, they insisted on the need for "not putting all your eggs in one basket" when managing during times of crisis. Panelists spoke about the globalization strategies their companies have pursued, mistakes they have made along the road, and the importance of top-quality teams when moving into foreign markets.