"When we reflect on the way ahead we must think long term"

Sao Paulo Global Alumni Reunion Closes With Intense Debate



The three-day Global Alumni Reunion held in Sao Paulo concluded with a densely packed and hugely stimulating academic program of seven sessions in which top business leaders addressed the Global Alumni Reunion’s overall theme of charting paths in a wider world.

In his opening remarks IESE Dean Jordi Canals talked about the significance of Brazil and how much has been achieved in recent years. He also referred to IESE’s network of associate schools in Latin America and the programs it is running Brazil. "Everywhere that IESE exists it is seeking to have a transformational impact on the world of leadership and management," he said. "The crisis today is essentially a crisis of trust and integrity."

Prof. Antonio Argandoña gave the keynote address on the role of companies in building a fairer world. "Companies have a responsibility for the renewal of society and they cannot afford not to undertake it," he said.

Prof. Pedro Videla moderated the next session on growth and the economic crisis in which Prof. José Manuel González-Páramo painted a cautiously optimistic picture of Europe’s troubles. "German scepticism over why the ‘sinners’ should be bailed out is offset by their deeply pro-European sentiment," he said. Guilherme da Nórbrega, chief economist at Itaú Securities, said there was no reason to be despondent about Brazil’s recent sluggish growth. "In 2010 people were over optimistic and expected everything too soon, but growth has returned," he said.

With both the World Cup and the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, the next session turned its attention to the sort of boost countries can expect from hosting such iconic events. This session was moderated by Paulo Roberto Ferreira, Dean of ISE, IESE’s associate school in Brazil.

Gerhard Heiberg, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s marketing commission, said the IOC’s mission is to bring about a better world through sport, adding that it focuses increasingly on the legacy of the Games in a city after they are over. Ravi Mattu, editor Business Life at the Financial Times, said that Britons were pessimistic and misanthropic before the recent Games, but were won over once they began. "These big events shift attention to the host country. Now it’s Brazil’s turn," he said.

The last session before lunch discussed scientific leadership and innovation for an improved quality of life. The moderator, Prof. Núria Mas, said the fact that life expectancy has gone up brings benefits but also tensions and health systems have to change and adapt to this new reality.

Dr Giovanni Cerri, the Sao Paulo province health secretary, of health, said that "a key to improving public health is good management and we need to invest in people who can offer this," adding that "new technologies must be available to everyone so you have to look at the likely cost before you adopt a technology."

Dr. Luis Donoso, director of diagnostic imaging at Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, said that "every 10-15 years we have a new technology in imaging. Medical imaging means we can now have customized medicine so that you can avoid unnecessary treatments."

The afternoon session began with a session on connecting technology, strategy and business models that was moderated by Joseph Leahy, Brazil bureau chief at the Financial Times. Santiago Fernández Valbuena, CEO. Telefónica Brazil, pointed out that telecoms technologies change every three or four years so there is very little time to recover your investment.

"Digital media is forcing newspapers to change the business model. A media company has to deliver content via a range of platforms," commented
Francisco Mesquita, executive president, Grupo Estado.

Jorge Nóbrega, corporate vice president, Organizaçoes Globo, said that "it’s
not just about choosing between paper and digital but about changing your product." For Eduardo Ricotta, vice president Ericsson, Latin America, "connectivity empowers individuals and brings new business opportunities.
In a networked society the user has the power."

This was followed by a session on charting connectedness. The moderator, Prof. Pankaj Ghemawat, produced evidence to show that neither countries nor companies are as globalized as people think. He put this to the panel and Stanley Motta, chairman of Copa Holdings, responded that "if you remember the golden rule that you do unto others as you’d like them to do to you, everything else is commentary."

Daniel Servitje CEO, Grupo Bimbo, said "in globalization you can’t be a spectator. You either participate or you become a victim," while Kees J. Storm, chairman, AB InBev, added that "big players are no longer national enterprises and they need to behave responsibly wherever they operate."

The final session, moderated by Prof. Eduardo Martínez Abascal, focused on infrastructures. Salvador Alemany, president of Abertis, told the audience that "infrastructures create positive externalities, increase GDP and can’t be relocated. They create a circle of demand. We have to be selective in these investments and it needs mutual trust and honesty, perseverance and resilience and an alignment public and private sector interests for public private partnerships to succeed."

Sergio Aranda, director for Latin America, Gas Natural Fenosa, emphasised that infrastructure investment required long-term vision, a clear regulatory framework, responsible investment and committed companies that want to help countries to evolve and not just to speculate.

Paulo Ricardo Stark, president and CEO, Siemens Brazil, said we have to address the environmental issues and "we have to educate consumers and whole nations to consume and use products and solutions that can help to improve the situation."

In his closing comments Jordi Canals thanked all the participants for "an inspiring day. The energy comes from you, you are the ones that make the difference and who help us to think how we can better serve the business community," he said. "When we reflect on the way ahead we must think long term. The long-term gains are for us and for society. We need to make companies engines of positive change."

And that was the Global Alumni Reunion, 2012. See you all in Barcelona on November 8, 2013.