Ben Snee – CEO, LGT Vestra LLP
2016 has been quite a year for Vestra, not least our new partnership with LGT.
This pairing with LGT has been a successful one, both for us as a firm and more importantly, for our clients. We have been fortunate in finding a partner who represents the oft-espoused but rarely found essence of a successful corporate marriage, i.e. a genuinely good cultural fit. There is no doubt that we are different to our continental friends; our trouser of choice is rarely lederhosen and our skiing is rubbish (with one or two exceptions), but the fundamental sharing of values is there. I will not list all of these, but at the forefront is a genuine care for clients, a progressive approach and a long-term view.
This coming together of different cultures in the pursuance of a shared vision is sadly not something that has materialised in the wider world this year. In fact, the shock to the system of recent political events has been such that the system itself still doesn’t yet quite know how to react. There have been reams of commentary on the subject, both before and after the events. Yet really, nobody knows what is going to happen next. This is both exciting and worrying.
It is worrying in that it can feel like we are living in a time of great uncertainty, all too often punctuated by acts of extreme violence. People have drawn parallels between this phase in the 21st Century and 1939 with the rise of the right, unchecked and not taken seriously, but ultimately gaining in power. Social media is changing the way we interpret the world, arguably dumbing things down and ensuring that decisions are no longer based on well-researched fact, but opinion, which then becomes fact – so called “post-truth”. Some of it you couldn’t make up, or perhaps you could? Incredibly, the creators of The Simpsons wrote an episode 16 years ago called Bart to the Future where they had Donald Trump as President and Commander-in-Chief. As Matt Groening puts it, “Back in 2000...[Trump] was of course the most absurd placeholder joke name that we could think of at the time and that’s still true. It’s beyond satire.”
Yet in spite of all of this, change can be good. People and organisations are frequently worried by it - I see that even here at LGT Vestra, a business that I believe is progressive for the sector and in general quite accepting of change. But perhaps we need to embrace it more. It is often the thing on which long-term success is predicated; it drives innovation, it allows the young to come through and make their own mark, it is what the human race is built on. As Charles Darwin is often quoted as saying, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change”. It appears to me that while neither the Brexit outcome, nor the US election result feels particularly progressive, they are both consequences of a democratic process that may yet prove wiser than the commentators and experts who so badly predicted their outcomes.
On balance, change happens whether we like it or not, and we are best to embrace it and go forth with a positive outlook. It is comforting to know that some progress has been made - there are fewer countries in the world fighting with each other now than at any other time in modern history, social mobility is on a long-term upward trajectory and finally, it is at least another four years until Boris Johnson becomes our Prime Minister.