Time travelling in real time
GUEST CONTRIBUTION BY ANDREAS SCHOLZ, CHAIRMAN OF THE MANAGEMENT BOARD, DFV EURO FINANCE GROUP
Coronavirus not only affects the airways, but also the way we communicate. In times of isolation and social distancing, the analogue communication experience is limited to a narrow radius. A circumstance that is not really conducive to the idea of networking. At least as far as the familiar, traditional, personal networking is concerned. In this respect, coronavirus acts as an accelerant. However, as we have all learned quickly, there are alternatives to this situation. New, disruptive methods of communication have spread. Once again, coronavirus has acted and continues to act as a catalyst and is increasingly digitalising or virtualising the way we communicate.
Communication and networking are not interrupted, they rather take new paths. Although not everything can be digitised even in a “World 4.0”, new technologies are building communicative bridges and supplementing or expanding our communication channels. All of this is happening at a rapid pace. Even in Germany, where many schools are currently still stuck in the chalk era, we have now “Zoomed” in. We are experiencing time travel into the future – so to speak in real time.
This is not an unfamiliar environment for AKA. In previous years, at the Investors’ Meetings, the focus has always been on the future. It was not just about tomorrow, but as a minimum about the day after tomorrow. While the discussions took place in the present, the participants were always time travelling into the future. The future was anticipated. Thus, digital money and crypto currencies were being discussed while they were still in complete infancy. The price of a Bitcoin was not USD 50,000 as it is today, but still 50. Many other crypto currencies had not even arrived in the financial world yet. The networking idea of the Investors’ Meetings was always characterised by a special standard of experience. The scripts to be discussed were to be exciting, inspiring and determined by visions. In addition to the fuel of curiosity, this also always required the right intuition, having a “nose” for the topics that really make or could make the future – even if some of them seem almost unimaginable.
Other examples from past Investors’ Meetings include the discussion of the potential abolishment of cash, at a time when this still seemed a completely outlandish idea. Equally, the question of whether interest rates will really become negative and what else the ECB could buy as part of a QE programme. The return of China to an economic world power and the role of the RMB as one of the major world currencies was also one of these visionary topics long before China’s currency was included in the IMF’s currency portfolio.
However, the Investors’ Meetings did not only focus on futuristic financial market topics. Experiencing the future in real time also concerned other areas of life. For example, the mobility of the future, when it was even possible to take a ride in an electric vehicle of the future. Or, to give one last example, at the one meeting when real and virtual worlds met and participants could experience socalled Augmented Reality in real time. This is where the worlds and perspectives were combined. Joint networking became an eye-opening experience. Experienced bankers looked from the present directly into the future, as if through inquisitive eyes of a child. Last year’s Investors’ Meeting saw a double voyage through time. Back to the 1920s and forward again to the predicted next ten years, meaning to the “new 20s”. And this event was once again marked by a special experience. Although the participants were not really put into the time machine, they have experienced a networking event under completely new conditions. What had not even been discussed a year before was decided and implemented in just a few weeks. A hybrid communication experience.
Once again, worlds were connected. In this case, the analogue environment with the digital environment. Where participants could not or were not allowed to be present in person due to the pandemic, they were connected digitally. A speaker was also streamed into the analogue panel. In this way, both the panel and the entire auditorium became hybrid. A hybrid event that did not have to forego interaction and in the end was even attended by significantly more guests than at previous events.
Digital space knows no restrictions. While distancing and hygiene rules have to be observed in the analogue room, in the digital room there is almost unlimited legroom. In addition, the participants still come together – on site – for analogue networking – at the last Investors’ Meeting this included a standing reception on the terrace afterwards. Naturally, adhering strictly to the coronavirus restrictions.
Hybrid events are the future. They combine the advantages of both communication worlds: personal, analogue networking with an almost unlimited reach and at the same time interaction in the digital space. This future was already the present and thus reality at the Investors’ Meeting 2020. Out of necessity and, in view of the coronavirus, this was compulsory, but also contemporary and innovative.
We cannot and will not digitalise everything. The personal exchange between decisionmakers cannot be replaced digitally with the same networking quality. Not even all the technical sophistication in the world can achieve this. However, we can and will digitally enrich and expand communication where it makes sense and is necessary. If we combine both worlds, this would be the ideal way to communicate.
Even in a post-coronavirus world, hybrid events will stay and become the future. AKA was always at least one step ahead with its annual Investors’ Meetings. With its hybrid orientation, not only was a future-oriented topic discussed again in the year of coronavirus, but the future itself was shaped and implemented in real time. Digitisation will continue to take hold and cannot be stopped. In this respect, coronavirus has ignited the future for everyone – whether bank, financial service provider or event organiser.
The pace of our time travel has increased enormously. It is important to be open to new things, to be prepared to take new paths and to retain curiosity. And: to have the right intuition for the topics and trends of tomorrow is one thing. However, personally facing this disruption head-on is another. This common travelling through time in real time will continue. AKA will also approach future events in this tradition. Let’s look forward to the topics and issues that will henceforth once again deal with the future.