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Split shot of the oceans and some cliffs
Split shot of the sea and some cliffs

The rocky desert coastline of the northern Red Sea. Sea levels around the world are rising and coral is being bleached by acidification due to increasing CO2 levels

Amid much scepticism about whether the global climate summit COP28, taking place in Dubai over the next few weeks, will actually bear any positive results, there are rays of hope. Ted Janulis, investor, entrepreneur and founder of Investable Oceans, outlines the reasons he is feeling cheerful in the run-up to an event that needs to change the way we think about and deal with climate change

In just a few days, 70,000 people will convene in Dubai to attend COP28 (the 28th annual “Conference of the Parties”), where delegates from countries all around the world will discuss how to address the climate crisis. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – tasked with finding ways to reduce emissions – will track member states’ progress on emission reductions and negotiate further collective action, alongside business leaders, climate scientists, journalists, and others in attendance. Major topics will include how vulnerable communities can adapt to climate change and how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

We’re at a critical juncture for our climate and oceans, so this COP is particularly important. While increased commitments provide grounds for some optimism, our oceans and climate face continuing serious challenges. We’re not on course to stay within the 1.5C increase above pre-industrial levels scientists warn is required to avoid serious environmental and human consequences, and in addition we’re falling far short of the $150 billion per year cited by recent research needed to achieve the goals of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water by 2030. The bottom line, as former president of Ireland Mary Robinson eloquently put it: “We cannot afford to have a bad COP”.

A camel walking by the sea

Desertification and coastal erosion are major issues facing the world

Despite these daunting circumstances, we’re looking forward to seeing oceans having a substantial presence at COP28. This is a continuation of a theme that has gained momentum throughout 2023: there is growing recognition that the oceans, the world’s largest carbon sink, will play a pivotal role in providing solutions for climate change.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This year’s Climate Week NYC in September was a clear demonstration of this progression, as the number of events, announcements and real outcomes increased substantially from previous years. Amy Novogratz, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Aqua-Spark, asserted that: “Climate Week is feeling very Blue this year, finally!”

External shot of an ocean pavilion

The Ocean Pavilion at the 2022 COP in Sharm el-Sheikh. The 2023 Pavilion features ten ocean themes

A substantial increase in investable opportunities has added to this marine momentum. At least 10 new blue economy dedicated funds have launched over the past year, bringing the total count to over 30. A major focus of these funds is how to measure the environmental impact of sustainable ocean investing. In other recent news, a variety of blue bonds have come to market that involve debt-for-nature swaps, sovereigns and corporations, and Rockefeller Capital Management and KraneShares now offer an ocean engagement themed Exchange-Traded Fund (KSEA).

On the investor side, oceans made their debut on the plenary stage at the GIIN’s annual conference in Copenhagen, where discussions covered the proverbial waterfront, from ecosystem conservation to coastal resilience to blended finance to nuclear sharks. We also saw increased interest in the ocean sector from “terrestrial” investors. For example, sustainable agriculture funds are beginning to look at aquaculture as an attractive adjacent opportunity to their core focus.

Coral reef under the sea

A towering Acropora coral, one of the hundreds of coral reef species that help support up to 25% of all marine life

The upcoming COP28 will seek to capitalise on this surge of ocean interest and activity. Notably, oceans will be included in the COP28 thematic programme for the first time, with a special focus on 9th December. Together with an array of ocean events, gatherings and presentations at different pavilions, this represents a substantial increase in the ocean’s presence in global climate conversations and solutions.

Read more: Baroness Scotland and Markus Müller: a call for action at COP28

One of the highlights of COP28 will be the return of the Ocean Pavilion, which will bring diverse stakeholders together in a dedicated space within COP’s “Blue Zone” for its second year. The organizing partners, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will lead 32 partners through two weeks of events. The Pavilion programming is structured by ten themes organised under three tracks: Changing Ocean, Climate Consequences, and Future Ocean.

A pod of dolphins swimming in the sea

A pod of charismatic dolphins swimming in the shallows. Overfishing and bycatch are major issues for our oceans

The Pavilion is meant to inspire ocean-focused solutions through 70+ panel sessions, meetings and in-depth discussions. We are particularly excited about the “Blue Economy and Finance” theme, which explores the role that finance can play in ensuring that the ocean can continue to protect and provide for human societies in the coming decades. For example, Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will moderate a panel, Frontloading Equity in Financing Coastal Climate Resilience, exploring questions such as: How can we scale climate finance to reduce climate risks, speed recoveries, and reap the benefits of resilience? And how can our quantification of the financial costs of climate change be redesigned to yield equitable outcomes?

Despite all the headwinds, we are hoping for positive progress over the next weeks in Dubai.

Ted Janulis is Founder & Principal, Investable Oceans

Co-written with Helena Janulis, Business Development and Special Projects, Investable Oceans

All photos by Morgan Bennett-Smith

Find out more: www.investableoceans.com

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Small Pacific island nations like Tuvalu are at most risk of rising sea levels due to climate change; COP27 last year created a Loss and Damage Fund to alleviate their plight, but no funding has yet been forthcoming

There is a major issue with meeting our sustainability goals: the financial and structural support is, in many cases, just not there. Deutsche Bank’s Markus Müller explains to Darius Sanai what needs to happen to close the gap

LUX: What is the sustainable financing gap and what is the biggest problem we face for bridging it?
Markus Müller: It is usually defined as the difference between the cost of meeting United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) and the amount of investment actually being delivered. Big numbers are common here but we need to put them in perspective – the latest OECD estimated the annual financing gap is 3.9 trillion USD, but this is much smaller than global GDP of around 100 trillion USD. The biggest problem isn’t the size of the gap, but making sure that investment projects and systems are viable. Bringing down borrowing costs and making sure there’s a level playing field for investments are big parts of this.

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LUX: Financing sustainable development should be a priority. But is short-term thinking still making it difficult?
MM: I wouldn’t blame the sustainable finance gap simply on short-term thinking. I think most people are rightly uncomfortable with how close we are to the planetary boundaries, and this is spurring action: we aren’t just leaving this to future generations. Fixing the finance gap now needs innovation, an ability to break free of current ways of thinking and a clear view of where we want to be. Returns and cost of capital remain key issues.

Houston, Texas is attracting new technological investment due to incentives created by the US Inflation Reduction Act, which is in effect a green subsidy

LUX: You have observed that our international social infrastructure for dealing with global collaborative action (the UN, and the economic institutions arising from Bretton Woods) are from another era. Do they need to be updated?
MM: Existing international institutions provide good framework to support transformation. They can cooperate in new ways with other bodies if necessary – note President Macron’s Global Financial Pact summit earlier this year. This is a matter of evolution, not replacement. Look at the discussions, for example, around how to repurpose IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR, invented back in 1969) to support biodiversity and other initiatives.

LUX: The climate crisis – or triple planetary crisis – requires global nations’ collaboration on a probably unprecedented scale. But is such collaboration now more difficult in our increasingly multipolar world?
MM: Collaboration is fragile by nature, but it is still possible in a multipolar world. We start from a base point where the world’s resources – financial, material, natural – are unevenly distributed. Developing economies have more physical resources (for example, metal and minerals deposits) so it may make sense for them to collaborate. But if developed economies want to participate in these discussions, they must deliver more real support. This is often lacking: for example, there have been no inflows into the Loss and Damage Fund agreed on at last year’s COP.

At COP27 in Egypt in 2022, world leaders agreed to take tangible steps towards alleviating the climate crisis, but it remains to be seen whether they will be executed

LUX: Are you optimistic that the US, EU, Russia and China (for example) will agree on and enact workable policy solutions to counter the climate crisis? What would be significant markers of progress?
MM: Yes, I am. We have seen one important, recent example of this: major technology disputes between the U.S. and China did not stop the two sides meeting for climate talks. This shows that environmental issues do not have to become a destructive bargaining chip in broader trade or investment disputes, although we should not ignore the fact that environmental operating standards do have an impact on competitiveness and thus trade tensions. For me, the key marker of progress is continued discussion and agreement to stay within overall multilateral environmental policy targets.

LUX: If we are indeed entering a more unstable era (in terms of global climate and related issues like biodiversity), do the fundamentals of policy making need to change in order to accommodate constant change?
MM: I think this is a matter of learning how to overcome unforeseen challenges, rather than simply accepting instability. As our understanding of environmental issues and how to tackle them gets better, policy will change. The fundamental shift may involve us stopping seeing policymaking as proceeding along an inflexible straight line. We need to be more flexible and accept that policy may zig-zag. Policymakers’ ability to adopt to changing knowledge to find optimum solutions should be seen as an indication of strength, not weakness.

China, one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, has recently cleaned up its urban pollution and has agreed to restart formal climate change talks with the U.S. as of November 2023

LUX: Past successes like the Montreal Protocol were one-time events. How can we ensure more sustained policy progress?
MM: I don’t think we should think of policy advances as one-time “successes”. In reality, we often don’t know the real impact of policy agreements for many years. Some agreements that are hailed as successes at the time – for example, the Aichi goals of 2011 – have subsequently proved insufficient to meet the challenge at hand. The importance of agreements is really that they drive us, one uneven step at a time, towards better environmental outcomes.

Read more: Marküs Muller on the economy and biodiversity

LUX: How important are subsidy and protection programmes for transition technologies, and can they be harmful?
MM: It’s important to distinguish between different sorts of policy support. There are good and long-standing arguments for the support of “infant industries”, in the economics jargon, but we have to be careful that this does not slide into protectionism as these industries mature. U.S. support via the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is giving us a good preview of transition policy support, and what really determines where new industries locate and thrive. (Consider why Houston is attracting new technologies and Miami is losing out, for example.) Ultimately, it’s all about kickstarting specific industries that will really work.

Markus Müller is Chief Investment Officer of ESG & Global Head of Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

Find out more:  deutschewealth.com/esg

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A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea
An underwater vortex of waves in the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

Creating a sustainable blue economy – meaning we can invest in businesses directly related to the oceans while avoiding negative impact – is one of the most important tasks on humankind’s to-do list. Below, LUX speaks with Muriel Danis of Deutsche Bank about the challenges. Chris Stokel-Walker also speaks to entrepreneurs trying to make a positive impact in the ocean space

Muriel Danis on building investment opportunities in the sustainable blue economy

A woman wearing a white shirt

Muriel Danis

One of the challenges faced by investors interested in the sustainable blue economy is that it is an emerging landscape. “It’s a very nascent space,” says Muriel Danis, Global Head of Product Platforms and Sustainable Solutions at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. “There are few products dedicated to the blue economy. What we see more often, especially in the private markets space, is a broader, impact approach to investing, with a sub-allocation for ocean-based investments.”

Danis is overhauling the products at Deutsche Bank by making sustainability a central part of the tenet. She is incorporating ESG qualitative and quantitative factors into the product development process to meet regulatory requirements and help identify “best in class” managers and solutions. That is easier said than done. Most liquid products available today focus primarily on what Danis calls a “do no harm approach”: they tend to exclude from investment portfolios any sectors or activities that have a materially negative impact on the oceans. However, in private markets there may be more product opportunities able to deliver material and measurable positive outcomes. “We are seeing a number of VC funds that are directly investing in technologies and capabilities that protect marine biodiversity,” says Danis. “By targeting overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change, they are supporting a sustainable blue economy.”

A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

“We think this will be an expanding universe,” adds Danis. That’s partly driven by investor demand, and partly by increased policy action. A good example is the recent UN High Seas Treaty, which aims to place 30 per cent of the seas into protected areas by 2030. This will support increased finance flows into sectors of the sustainable blue economy impacted by the 30 x 30 agreement. “As the market becomes more mature,” says Danis, “we will see more need for financing to support the transition of business models to what I would call a blue or green model.”

Danis is spearheading that transition by making connections to blue economy pioneers. One such opportunity was the DB x ORRAA Ocean Conference hosted in 2022 in Mallorca. In the first conference of its kind, Deutsche Bank invited a range of companies and their founders, including some of those featured below, to demystify the sustainable blue economy and show how private capital can help achieve positive ocean impact at scale.

Entrepreneurs on creating businesses for the good of the oceans

A new generation of individuals are setting up companies worldwide to radically overhaul how we interact with our oceans, and help save our planet while building a sustainable economy

A woman wearing a black top and glasses

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz

Replacing ship engines with sails
Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz
Co-founder, bound4blue, Barcelona

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz always wanted to be a doctor. “I thought the only way to do good in theworld was to save lives,” she says. But a chance conversation with a teacher who suggested engineering changed her path.

Muñoz became an aeronautical engineer, working on planes and space shuttles before pivoting to the maritime industry. That aerodynamic expertise helped when she launched bound4blue with her co-founders. The challenge was to overcome the shipping industry’s fuel-consumption problem – shipping alone accounts for 2.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

“I think engineering can help solve today’s hardest problems, make sustainability profitable and be something that can be developed and implemented,” says Muñoz. The company has developed a wind-propelled eSAIL that can reduce emissions by up to 40 per cent, and which it has tested on three ships. “The intention is for around 80 per cent of the global fleet to benefit from this type of solution,” she says.

bound4blue.com

Marine-friendly robotics
Liane Thompson
Co-founder, Aquaai, California and Norway

A woman with long wavy hair

Liane Thompson

As a journalist for The New York Times, Liane Thompson used to travel the world. Once, while she was in South Africa, she reported on an entrepreneur called Simeon Pieterkosky. Little did she know then that she would reconnect with Pieterkosky around a decade later in 2014 to develop Aquaai.

The husband-and-wife’s marine-robotics company builds affordable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which it calls Nammu. These are shaped like fish and are used to gather environmental data deep underwater, without intruding on the marine life living there. The AUVs are 3D printed and come installed with off-the-shelf cameras and sensors – deliberately so, says Thompson, so that people can build their own in communities that need them most.

And that need is ever increasing, says Thompson, “given superstorms, floods, the proteins and food sources coming out of underwater farming, and the need to protect marine habitats and corals.”

aquaai.com

Biodiversity-friendly coastal concrete
Ido Sella
Co-founder, ECOncrete, Tel Aviv

A bald man wearing a white shirt

Ido Sella

Marine biologist Dr Ido Sella has been fixated on the impact of coastal construction on the marine environment for more than 20 years. His bugbear? Concrete, as it doesn’t support the same biodiversity as other substrates. In an ideal world, natural reef would mark out ports and create promontories – but that won’t happen. So Sella worked to develop a material that would be better than the concrete used in 70 per cent of coastal infrastructure.

And so, in 2012, ECOncrete was born. A decade ago, the company started experimenting in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The findings were shocking: the mix itself was an issue, as was the surface and the structural strength. ECOncrete solves all three problems: its Admix can be added to regular concrete to provide a better chemical balance for marine life, its texture agents help marine life cling to the structures and their moulds help create ecological niches and strengthen the structures.

ECOncrete is now used in breakwaters and ports globally. “There is a real drive from the industry to look for these solutions,” says Sella.

econcretetech.com

The curve of a wave and the blue sky

Photo by Ben Thouard

Large-scale coral regrowth
Sam Teicher
Co-founder, Coral Vita, Freeport

A man with a beard wearing a white t-shirt and shirt

Sam Teicher

At the age of 13, Sam Teicher gained a scuba- diving certification. “I’ve loved the ocean and nature my whole life,” he says. “As a kid from Washington D.C., I grew up imagining I was going to become a coral farmer.” Teicher studied the environment and climate change in college, then grad school. It was through working at a friend’s NGO between courses that he was first introduced to coral restoration – and it became his life’s work.

Coral Vita, the company Teicher co-founded in 2019, grows coral 50 times faster than it would grow in nature – so it can be replenished as modern life diminishes our reserves of the natural resource. Started with a $1,000 grant from Yale, where Teicher and his co-founder met, Coral Vita is now behind the world’s first commercial land-based coral-reef farm, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where the coral grown is being used to replenish the reef. In 2021, the company won Prince William’s inaugural Revive Our Oceans Earthshot Prize. “We hope to kick-start the whole restoration economy,” says Teicher.

coralvita.co

Biodegradable packaging and materials
Jack Sieff
Corporate Development Manager, Polymateria, London

A man sitting down with his hands on this lap wearing a suit

Jack Sieff

Plastic waste is a major problem for the world’s oceans, strangling marine life and jeopardising biodiversity systems. There is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in the world’s sea and oceans.

Founded in 2015 by Jack Sieff’s father Jonathan, Polymateria has developed biodegradable alternatives to plastic. In 2020, Polymateria reached a major milestone, achieving certified biodegradation of the most commonly littered forms of plastic packaging in real-world conditions, all without creating the harmful microplastics the world is seeking to avoid. “Since the launch of that standard, we’ve seen a domino effect,” Sieff says, as many countries are adopting similar standards.

Polymateria’s biodegradable materials are now utilised in items such as masks and wipes, along with other uses. The company raised £15 million in its Series-A funding before the pandemic hit, and is about to close out a Series-B round, bringing in a further £20 million.

polymateria.com

Autonomous sailing fleet that creates power
Ben Medland
Founder, DRIFT Energy, London

A man wearing a back suit and white shirt

Ben Medland

Engineer Ben Medland didn’t know how to answer when his eight-year-old son asked him, “Daddy, why is the climate broken? And how can we fix it?” Medland’s son had been reading about a recent COP conference, and had noticed that the nearby wind farm just wasn’t moving. What could be done? Medland vowed to try to change things by turning the 70 per cent of the planet that traditional renewables don’t reach – the world’s oceans – into an energy source. He admits that it is a “crazy” idea, but it is one that works.

DRIFT, founded in 2021, creates sailboats, augmented with turbines, which will go through the water, guided by AI to inform them of the most beneficial route to pick up power. The tides themselves generate energy into the turbine, which is stored onboard as green hydrogen using a process called electrolysis.

Better yet, that onboard green energy can then be used wherever the sailboats end up docking – bringing green energy to the parts of the world that need it the most.

drift.energy

This article was first published in the Deustche Bank Supplement in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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hay field and the sky

hay field and the skyCan we put a price tag on nature? Valuing the carbon services of plants and animals is essential to bridging the gap between finance and conservation, says Professor Connel Fullenkamp, the leading academic working at the intersection of science and economics. Here, Fullenkamp speaks to LUX about the importance of engaging capital markets in biodiversity financing, and why necessity is the mother of invention

A bald man wearing glasses and a red shirt

Professor Connel Fullenkamp

LUX: You have spoken profoundly about the value of natural assets.
CF: We’re bringing economics, finance, and business into an area where it really hasn’t been brought in before. We start with the approach that says these natural assets have a lot of value, but we don’t necessarily know how to put a price tag on that value. So, we start only with the things that we can find a market price for. This is because we want to speak the same language as investors and policymakers who have to keep their eye on the bottom line all the time.

When we go out and try to put a value on a natural asset, be it an elephant or a mangrove forest, we’re really thinking about this as trying to attach the lowest, believable value. We’re trying to convince people that the value is way more than that. That has got a lot of people’s attention, because it acquaints them with the tremendous value that resides in many natural assets.

LUX: Can there be a system that’s devised for transferring payments? For example, if a company destroys a coastal mangrove plantation, who does it pay for that lost value?
CF: Part of the desire behind this is to prevent the destruction from happening in the first place. But we’re living in a world in which we already have those kinds of swaps going on. So, what we’re trying to do is put an adequate value on that. We are also trying to create the impression that the contributions to things like biodiversity are worth even more. In many cases, of course, it’s the government that owns these assets, so we have to inform them what they are worth.

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For example, we were approached by the UK Environment Agency to help them value their salt marshes, given that they have diminished by 90% in the last century or so. If we can put a price tag on these things, we can help governments make the argument that, firstly, you shouldn’t destroy these things in the first place, and secondly, if you do harm these assets, there’s going to be a steep price to pay.

A bee on a purple flower

LUX: How hard is it to find a valuation when there are so many different factors? For example, with a salt marsh, you have to incorporate the carbon storage or the flood protection, and then the ecosystem’s biodiversity.
CF: It’s difficult to put a total valuation on most of these natural assets because it has proven to be difficult to value something like the contribution to biodiversity. It’s hard to even define what biodiversity is. Biodiversity in a desert is very different to that 1,000 or more kilometres south in rainforests.

LUX: What opportunities are there in terms of constructing a financial pathway for investors?
CF: This is something we’re very keen to create. Ideally, we’d have investors who are interested in investing in natural capital services, such as carbon sequestration, because there’s a fairly well-established market for it. These investors would like to purchase either carbon offsets or have other reasons for wanting to hold carbon credits. They would pay for certificates that would deliver the carbon credits, and then the proceeds would function like a sovereign wealth fund.

Read more: Professor Nathalie Seddon On Biodiversity And Climate Resilience

Hopefully, the main use of that money would be, of course, to establish conservation restoration programmes. This is a long pathway between the financial markets all the way to the people on the ground doing conservation restoration. But unless we create that pathway, I think we’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

LUX: Which opportunities should investors be looking towards, in terms of creating the new financial system to support this?
CF: There are two things that should create excitement. They’d be investing on the idea that these are natural resources will continue to deliver these different environmental services, like carbon sequestration. We’re betting on the recovery of those things. Also, they’re betting on the plus in which carbon will help us understand what the biodiversity benefits are, that can also then be priced. If we get good at establishing these carbon markets, we kind of wrap in these biodiversity services as a plus.

green trees in a meadow

LUX: What are the main hurdles to be overcome?
CF: Governments are very reluctant to think about selling their natural assets to the private sector. And so, our first hurdle is to convince them that, no, you’re not selling the assets. We’re trying to get you to sell the services of the natural assets; in fact, governments need to retain ownership of these assets.

We have to establish a conduit that will help governments protect these assets so that they can continue to generate services and support: mainly the beauty and culture of their countries. Governments are naturally reluctant because this is a brand new thing that they’ve never seen before. The markets are sceptical for similar reasons, and because there are some less-savoury actors out there who’ve already been trying and failing with certain initiatives.

Also, there is, especially in the case of wild animals, scientific uncertainty. So many of these species are facing near extinction across the board. We don’t have time. We need people to say, okay, the science is good enough. We’re willing to believe in it and bet on it.

A tree burning with fire in the background

LUX: Are these outcomes possible?
CF: I’m optimistic. The reaction we get when we talk to people has been overwhelmingly positive. When you get the capital markets involved, you can unleash a tremendous amount of financing that can do a lot of good, hopefully for conservation and restoration.

It is hard to imagine being able to cover that biodiversity financing gap without the participation of the financial markets. So, one of the things that drives my optimism is the fact that necessity is the mother of invention. For addressing climate change, this is one of our best chances. The trick is to put everybody together and get them to work together toward this common goal.

little green plants growing from the soil with water droplets on them

LUX: Will there be developments in attaching more specific prices, in terms of the science around biodiversity and nature-based capital?
CF: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of excitement in that research. In particular, for example, one of the leading seagrass researchers is very excited about our work and is writing a paper for us. Seagrass is again one of these unsung heroes of blue carbon that sequesters a tremendous amount of carbon. We still don’t know what the full extent of seagrass coverage is anywhere, because nobody’s really had the money or the gumption to go look for it. So just finding out where the seagrass is, how much it covered it can sequester and where it can be restored: those kinds of issues are the type of research that we see coming out of this in the short term.

LUX: Are there accessible ways of investing in natural capital in the way that you’ve outlined?
CF: What we’ve got in mind is a bit different from, say, the sustainability linked bonds or green bonds that we see out there. There again, I think these are they’re all great and part of the solution here. But really, when you’re investing in something like a sustainability linked or a green bond, you’re basically a bond investor. You’re hoping that the money gets put to a certain type of a purpose. And in some cases, you’re going to get some either yield pick up or yield penalty depending on the performance. But really, you’re not making a direct investment, so to speak, or a direct bet on the actual natural capital itself. You’re really not investing in environmental services. That’s to me, in my mind, that’s a really big difference here, that what we’re what we have in mind and what we’re trying to create is really an asset backed market. And the asset that is being used to back the market is the natural capital services.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

LUX: In an optimistic scenario, how do you see this looking in 10 years’ time with the landscape?
CF: This will be just another asset class that people have available to them to invest in and it will have certain properties. Hopefully it will be sufficiently uncorrelated with other types of market returns to make it attractive as a diversification tool, if not for its own sake, and what it represents in terms of investment in the environment. So ideally, that’s what we’d see people would say. Well, I’ve got some of my portfolio in stocks and bonds, real estate alternatives. And one of the alternatives is going to be these natural capital assets.

Connel Fullenkamp is Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Duke University 

Find out more: duke.edu

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sting ray swimming above colourful corals in the sea
sting ray swimming above colourful corals in the sea

Alex Mustard photographed healthy reefs in the Maldives

As our oceans warm up, the spectacular coral reefs of the Maldives archipelago are dying. Michael Marshall reports on the new philanthropic project aiming to make them more resilient to climate change

Beneath the glittering cerulean waters of the Maldives archipelago, trouble is brewing. The extraordinary coral reefs that encircle these islands are being damaged by climate change, threatening the country’s very survival.

Fortunately, help is at hand. A local research and conservation institute has bold plans to strengthen the reefs by breeding the most resilient corals and seeding them in the waters of the Maldives. With the help of a new philanthropic initiative, led by Deutsche Bank, the project is ready to set sail.

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The Maldives is one of the countries most affected by climate change. “You couldn’t find a place more in the front lines,” says Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of Exeter.

As the Earth’s temperature warms, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans are being reshaped. Most obviously, sea levels are rising – and for low-lying islands like the Maldives that is an existential threat. But there’s more: seas are warming, the water is becoming more acidic and low-oxygen zones are spreading. These changes threaten all marine life.

Climate change poses a particular threat to corals. These tiny animals live in huge colonies underwater, and over thousands of years the skeletons of dead corals build up to make vast structures called reefs. The Maldives themselves are coral reefs that grew until they reached the surface, and the country’s islands are ringed by underwater reefs. These are home to an extraordinary range of animals, from sharks to starfish.

beige and yellow corals in the sea

More photography by Alex Mustard of healthy reefs in the Maldives

“Your first experience of a coral reef is completely unforgettable,” says Roberts. “You dive over the reef crest and into that area where it’s just a huge blaze of fish of all varieties and colours.” It’s utterly immersive, he adds; you can “feel yourself being completely consumed by an ecosystem”.

Corals are particularly vulnerable to warming. “It doesn’t take more than a rise of about 1°C above their normal thermal maximum for corals to get into deep trouble,” says Roberts. “That’s what’s been happening.”

A man wearing glasses, with palm trees behind him

Callum Roberts

In 1997-98 and 2015-16, spikes in ocean temperature caused mass coral bleaching events. The corals expelled the algae that live inside them and that they depend upon for nutrients. As a result, the corals turned ghostly white. The first bleaching event killed an estimated 95 per cent of shallow corals. They then underwent a partial recovery, before the second mass bleaching event caused about 65 per cent mortality. “That level of coral death is extremely worrying,” says Roberts.

In a 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2°C.” So far, the Earth has warmed by an estimated 1.1°C.

To save the corals, and by extension the Maldives, the country’s former president Mohamed Nasheed founded the Maldives Coral Institute (MCI). The MCI aims “to help coral reefs to survive and adapt to the changing climate”. Roberts is one of its scientific advisers.

dead corals in the sea

Alex Mustard also photographed bleached, dead corals highlighting the abundance of sea life at risk if corals are left to decline

The MCI is now being financially supported by Deutsche Bank. In November 2021, the bank launched its Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund, which is intended to support nature-based solutions to marine conservation problems. Deutsche Bank committed an initial $300,000 and hopes to raise $5 million over the next five years. The MCI was brought to the bank’s attention by Karen Sack, Executive Director and Co-Chair of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.

A woman with curly brown hair

Jacqueline Valouch

“The lack of funding is one of the big recognised barriers to nature-based solutions,” says Jacqueline Valouch, Head of Philanthropy at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management in New York, who was involved in setting up the fund.

“We’ve got this massive problem, the Maldives Coral Institute has a mission, and Deutsche Bank is funding a really important piece of work to begin with,” adds Roberts.

The funding will enable the MCI to launch a project called the Future Climate Coral Bank (FCCB). The idea is to find corals that have proven resistant to climate change and breed them in a controlled environment, creating more resilient strains. “We’re going to have a living propagated coral farm underwater in which the idea is to explore and test ways of assisting evolution,” says Roberts. These resilient corals can then be reintroduced to the ocean, particularly to reefs with a poor supply of coral larvae. In the long run, this will hopefully mean the Maldivian corals become more resilient.

divers under the sea on the sand

The MCI works on conservation projects including this one at Fulhadhoo, where divers installed a silt screen to prevent sediment from nearby construction from damaging the corals

“The magnitude of that impact to us was unmatched in many ways,” says Valouch. She says the FCCB “could last for many generations,” which is crucial, because her philanthropic clients want “to make an impact on the causes they care about”. “They’re multigenerational families coming from many different regions of the world and they have their family members living in different parts of the globe.”

Valouch and her colleagues plan to spend much of 2022 talking to donors. “We are looking to kick all that off now,” she says. A key element will be introducing prospective donors to the project team, so they can appreciate the talent and passion of all involved. Deutsche Bank is also recruiting a panel of experts who will advise on which projects to fund. “To be able to have that kind of innovation and creativity sit at the table with us is just extraordinary,” Valouch says.

For her, philanthropy can provide the seed funding for ambitious projects such as the FCCB. “It allows other donors to come in,” she says, and enables organisations like the MCI to recruit enough staff to become sustainable.

“I think the private sector has a greater appetite for risk,” says Roberts. That’s especially true for projects such as the FCCB. “This is not research that ends when you publish a study. This is something that has to make a difference on the ground and in the water.”

The hope is that, with the right investment, the corals of the Maldives will thrive for decades to come.

Five approaches to regenerating the world’s coral reefs

  1. Reducing agricultural runoff into the sea improves water quality and coral health.
  2. Coral IVF grows baby corals in the lab and seeds them on damaged reefs.
  3. Artificial reefs can be sunk in oceans to provide homes for corals and other sea life.
  4. Corals can even be given ‘probiotics’ to help boost their health.
  5. Most importantly of all, limiting climate warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and lowering global greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero will minimise the threat to the world’s coral reefs.

— Michael Marshall

A group of school children in blue uniforms sitting in a circle having a lesson

Former President of the Maldives and environmental activist Mohamed Nasheed discusses climate change with children at the Maldives Coral Institute’s Coral Festival in 2020

A partnership of positive steps

The Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) is helping to drive a global response to ocean-derived risks. Backed by organisations ranging from the World Wildlife Fund to Deutsche Bank as global lead banking partner, it wants to save the oceans by deploying the power of the financial world.

Read More: Jean-Michel Cousteau: Choose Life

Its mission is “to pioneer new and innovative financial products” that will tackle climate change, protect ocean biodiversity and help coastal communities become resilient, says Karen Sack, Executive Director and Co-Chair of ORRAA.

A woman with short hair wearing a black t shirt and necklace

Karen Sack

“We aim to drive at least $500 million of investment into coastal and marine natural capital, or ‘blue nature’,” says Sack. She argues that this is in everyone’s interest. The global ocean economy has a total asset value estimated at $24 trillion, but in the past decade only $13 billion has been invested in sustainable marine projects. “We need to change that,” says Sack. “And we need to act quickly.”

Hence the Maldives project. Deutsche Bank were looking for ways to have a positive impact quickly, as well as over the long term, and Sack suggested supporting the MCI. “Lessons learned in the Maldives will help heal and strengthen coral reefs around the world.”

Michael Marshall is a renowned science journalist specialising in the environment and life sciences

Find out more: deutschewealth.com/oceanfund

This article appears in the Deutsche Bank Supplement of the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A man standing on a fishing boat holding a fishing net
A man standing on a fishing boat holding a fishing net

Traditional net fishing from a boat

80% of the earth’s biomass is concentrated in the oceans. But how do we put a value on the deep sea? As the concept of natural capital — putting a price tag on the services nature provides — enters the mainstream, ocean expert and activist Karen Sack tells LUX Editor-in-Chief, Darius Sanai, why valuing nature needs to encompass more than just the dollar sign

Sack has over three decades’ experience in ocean conservation, law and policy, and currently serves as Chief Executive of Ocean Unite (co-founded with Richard Branson and José María Figueres) and Executive Director of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA). Here, she explains why the time has come to incorporate ocean measurements into sustainability metrics, and how nature-based solutions should be at the forefront of any ocean investment strategy

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: The concept of natural capital — of nature having value in and of itself — has historically been ignored. Why is it important?
Karen Sack: I do think it’s important, but we need to be careful not to reduce nature’s value to just a monetary value. The reason we have to put a value on nature is so that we can understand and incorporate it into the economic system that we all exist within. While, for me, this in some ways runs contrary to what we want to do – we want to just value nature in and of itself — we still need to incorporate nature into our valuation system. If we don’t, we will very quickly have to pay the consequences. We already are seeing this in terms of what is happening with the climate crisis.

Purple and brown corals in turquoise water

Fan Corals in Belize Barrier Reef

LUX: Can investment in ocean conservation be furthered by investment in the private sector?
KS: We need to blend together different types of finance to focus on the ocean’s protection. One of the issues that has arisen recently is how we account for the costs of marine protection. We’re focusing a lot on the question of what it costs in terms of potential revenue in terms of fisheries and other lost revenues. Yet we don’t apply that same standard when we think about providing a fishing company with a licence to fish; we don’t price those costs into that fishing licence. The private sector has been very involved in the extractive activities that take place in the ocean, and in some ways have been subsidised quite substantially by the public sector, so that those activities can continue.

The role of philanthropy in the ocean space is oftentimes to kickstart some of these discussions, to act as a springboard for investment from other areas. And oftentimes that’s what we need to paint the picture, so we understand the benefits of investment from the private and public sector.

Sri Lankan fisherman throwing a fishing net in the sea

Sri Lankan fisherman throwing a fishing net near Mirissa

LUX: When people speak of the blue economy, there might be an assumption that it is inherently sustainable. But the term can also encapsulate bottom-trawling and oil extraction.
KS: It has to be further defined. The Stockholm Resilience Centre has coined an interesting term: it talks about the development of the blue economy as a ‘blue acceleration’. If you look at different sectors of the economy that are investing in this space, you can see how lopsided and inequitable some of that development is. For example, small island developing states have protected something like 13% of all marine protected areas, which are in small island developing states. We call them ‘big ocean states’, because they have these amazing ocean real estate areas. That’s huge, yet the investment from other sectors of the economy, for example aquaculture, has been located within those small island development states.

Renewable energy is another example of where there has been a 500-fold increase in investment in offshore renewables over the past 20 years. Not one of those wind shore turbines have been located in a small island developing state. That is just so indicative of the lop-sidedness, because those countries require diesel fuel to be imported and yet are the most vulnerable to climate change.

A whale's head and tale sticking up in the ocean

A Humpback Whale

LUX: Does there need to be consolidation of a single set of rules and definitions for companies, investors and governments to follow?
KS: There needs to be a standardised accounting methodology that’s used, so that when you’re looking to invest in a space, you understand that that standardisation has happened. Otherwise, the opportunity for greenwash or bluewash is very high, and something that we have to guard against. It’s just too easy right now to argue that your investment is sustainable without those standardisations being in place to show that it truly is.

LUX: How does one measure the effect of either one’s donation or investment in sustainable terms?
KS: Right now, it’s very difficult to say there is any kind of comparability between, for example, one scheme that invests in seagrass to capture carbon and promote biodiversity, via another one in coral reefs. It’s what people are most interested in investing into at the moment. We understand the difference between the level of impact from a storm surge that a healthy coral reef can deflect versus a mangrove. But comparing ecosystems with one another is really difficult: it would be the same as comparing the carbon sequestration potential of the Savannah to a cornfield in Montana.

A man holding fish in a net by a lake

A fisherman holding a shoal of big Common Silver Barb

LUX: What needs to happen in terms of legislation and the way large institutional investors behave?
KS: We need to incorporate ocean measurements into some of the tools the financial world now uses when they measure their sustainability metrics. We don’t want to have some completely separate ocean-based metrics. For initiatives like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TFNFD), we need to incorporate the ocean into that. We need to look at some of the taxonomies that are being created for example by the European Union, and ensure that it is not completely different from whatever is created in the US or in other countries around the world, or in China. And then a focus on innovation, and the types of KPIs that need to be developed. So this is all beginning to happen, it’s a very fast moving space, but right now it requires certainly scientific advice and a lot of listening.

LUX: Will blue economy investment always be a kind of blended opportunity, or is it something that is seen as a P&L play?
KS: With the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance, one of the initiatives that we are working on is the development of what we are calling a Sea Change Impact Financing Facility (SCIFF). When, a couple of years ago, we started doing some work on financing, we asked some partners to look at what was needed to increase investment. We found that we needed a whole new ocean finance ecosystem. Spaces that are particularly important include the coastal ecosystems, the seagrass beds, the coral reefs: places that are helping to both be nurseries for biological diversity, sequestering carbon and providing food security for coastal communities. So if you don’t have that surrounding ecosystem, that is literally money down the drain. That will probably require blended finance, and looking at things such as the development of blue carbon credits. Then we need to look at how to drive the big investments into the space, and ask what type of equity capital we need to drive big investments. I mentioned offshore renewables, an amazing opportunity for investment that is still seen as quite risky.

mangroves in water

A mangrove tree in clear tropical waters near Staniel Cay, Exuma, Bahamas

Thinking about greening shipping, it is a huge emitter of CO2 but 80% of our trade in the world travels by ship. So how do we transform our ports and harbours, so they both have the infrastructure for green shipping? The third piece is what we call the ‘risk wrappers’. These are the public sector guarantees that can lower the risk of some of those opportunities for investment and drive public sector capital into the space. But if we’re looking at developing countries, and small island developing states, that’s not where the private sector is going. So how do we drive investment into some of those projects, and reduce transaction costs? Those are some of the issues we need to tackle as we move this new ocean financial ecosystem forwards.

LUX: Should nature-based solutions be the most important focus of investment currently, or one of many?
KS: From my perspective, nature-based solutions should be at the core of an investment strategy when it comes to the ocean. We’ve got 80% of the biomass, 80% of life on earth is held within the ocean. It doesn’t cost a lot, but the returns are incredible. We should be supporting, particularly for small-island developing states, and developing countries, investments into nature again for the reasons of resilience, food security, biodiversity positive outcomes, and also carbon sequestration. The more life we have, the stronger the carbon carrying capacity is. We also know that these are tested, as nature has been adapting for millennia. We need to learn from nature, and this is where we are seeing the results of that investment into nature being so significant.

Women with traditional hats working in the sea catching fish

Local women working in a fishing village

LUX: Do you see abating ocean industries as all part of the same investment parcel? Is it better for an institution to invest $500 million in a scheme that makes ships more hydrodynamic, or to invest in mangrove planting?
KS: The thing that is impacting the ocean the most right now is our CO2 emissions. So, any kind of investment that gets us to net zero as quickly as possible is helping the ocean. That is key. We must then look at the risk multipliers, for example pollution, whether it’s wastewater or nutrient runoff. These are not sexy things to invest in, but a sewage treatment plant can make the difference between a coral reef that survives and one that does not.

Read more: Melissa Garvey On Saving The Oceans

Bottom trawling is a fundamentally destructive fishing practice. Investments into things like bottom-trawling should just not happen. Offshore oil and gas is another one. So: stopping some investments to begin with. Next, investing in getting to net zero as quickly as possible. Third would then be looking at investments, particularly in coastal areas that are biodiversity positive in terms of their net result, so that we can rebuild those ecosystems.

It’s interesting to look at some of the work that’s now being done on technological solutions to address the climate crisis. We know, for example, that in a marine protected area that’s fully protected, the increase in biomass over 10 years can be 400% or even higher than that. I can’t think of a bank where I would put an investment in and get a 400% return on that investment, but nature gives us that. So, looking at those kinds of investments is really impossible. And that goes back to the question of valuing nature and understanding that that value isn’t just in the dollar value.

Karen Sack is Chief Executive of Ocean Unite and Executive Director of Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA)

Find out more:

oceanriskalliance.org

oceanunite.org

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Reading time: 9 min
Man
Windmill

Octopus is one of the largest owners and managers of renewable energy assets in Europe

As the International Energy Agency warns that the worst of the energy crisis may be yet to come, governments around the world are stressing the importance of accelerating the move to renewable energy. We speak to Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy Group, the technology-to-investment energy platform, about the importance of government intervention in energy policy, the role of technology, and how a greener future could be nearer than we think

Greg Jackson founded Octopus Energy in 2015 with a view to using technology to make the green energy revolution faster and cheaper for consumers. Now worth approximately $5bn, the privately held company supplies renewable energy to three million households worldwide. It is also one of the largest owners and managers of renewable energy assets in Europe, with more than £4bn under management. Jackson credits the company’s success to what he calls the “en-tech” model whereby proprietary technology plays a leading role in the company’s value offering. Here, he speaks to Ella Johnson about why there can be no alternative to radically updating the power grid and large-scale investment in renewable energy.

LUX: How will Octopus innovate the energy sector in the long term?

Greg Jackson: Octopus’ long-term goal is to generate roughly as much as its users use, with Kraken, our proprietary technology platform, matching generation and consumption at any time and location to make the most efficient renewable energy company possible.

A decentralised workforce allows us to greatly increase the pace of innovation and learn from many people with many different perspectives. We are a cloud-native company and have had a very successful remote customer operations team for over four years now. This allowed us to ensure we had processes and communication platforms in place when lockdown hit, and it has been absolutely vital as we’ve grown internationally, building successful Octopus Energy hubs in several countries around the globe.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

So far, we deliberately haven’t made a profit. Instead, we’ve focused on scaling the business, investing in new green technologies and making sure there is enough support available to our customers who are struggling. We are lucky to have investors that believe in our long-term goal and are absolutely committed to help us achieve this, so we don’t have to worry about short term profits to achieve our number one purpose, making green energy cheap energy around the world.

Waterloo Station

Octopus is working to digitalise the power grid through its proprietary Kraken technology

LUX: When did you realise the energy sector was ripe for a tech revolution?

GJ: I had built digital platforms for e-commerce and other sectors before to digitise and increase efficiency, and I quickly realised that applying the same technology to energy would greatly improve the way things are done in the sector.

LUX: What makes Octopus’ operating business model unique?

GJ: Our operating model is unique thanks to Kraken, our technology platform which we built from scratch. Where other suppliers rely on convoluted solutions for different functions, Kraken integrates them all into one giant robot, offering efficiency, better customer service and end-to-end management of the whole supply chain to allow us and our licensees to save costs, take better care of customers and drive the green energy revolution.

But we know we can’t drive change quickly enough if we’re on our own. So we’re licensing Kraken to other large energy companies across the globe who share our vision of a cleaner, better energy future, including E.ON, EDF and Origin Energy.

Windmill

Octopus has licensed its Kraken technology to support over 20 million customer accounts worldwide

LUX: How must existing infrastructure be adapted to accelerate this shift?

GJ: We need to digitise the power grid so that we can use it more efficiently, cutting bills and making the most of green electrons when they are abundant. The current grid was built to manage a few hundred fossil fuel power plants. We need to make it fit for a decentralised energy world in which millions of electric cars, rooftop solar panels and home batteries will be connected to it, importing and exporting energy from the grid.

LUX: How does Octopus overcome the unreliability of wind and solar sources?

GJ: The key to unlocking a cheap green energy future is to build a digital system that is interconnected and flexible. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow where we are – but they always do somewhere in the world.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

Working with other countries and layering different sources of green energy and ways of storing it (like batteries) will allow us to create a system in which we can make the most of solar and wind energy where they are abundant. For example, we invested in Xlinks, the company building the world’s largest subsea power cable. Once built, it will deliver 3.6 GW of green power from Morocco to the UK for an average of 20 hours a day – enough energy to power about 7 million homes. We need more large-scale renewables projects like this.

Protester

Renewable energy is the only way to increase our energy security and stop climate change, says Jackson

LUX: One of your tariffs provides carbon neutral gas. What do you say to those who argue carbon offsets are not a real substitute for climate action?

GJ: We have carbon offset our Super Green customers’ gas usage in a few different ways over the years: helping reforest and conserve vast areas of the Amazon, and working with our main offsetting partner, Renewable World, to bring innovative renewable energy technology to fuel-poor communities worldwide.

But while it has very worthwhile applications and can help a lot of people, carbon offsetting is only part of the puzzle in helping fight climate change. It cannot decarbonise the whole energy system and move us away from fossil fuels. For that we need more innovative technology to make energy greener and cheaper for everyone.

LUX: Is natural gas an adequate transition fuel?

GJ: In the short and mid-term, we still need natural gas as a backup energy source for renewables. But in the long term, we will have to wean ourselves off gas completely if we want to increase our energy security and stop climate change – and we can only do that if we go hell for leather for renewables now.

Man

Greg Jackson, Founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Group

LUX: How can policy speed up the mass uptake of renewable energy?

GJ: Historically, the creation, testing and licensing of a vaccine took around 15 years. With Covid, we managed to get the 15-year process of developing a vaccine down to one year. We need to do the same with wind energy. Due to planning approvals and grid connections, it currently takes on average 5-7 years to build and connect a wind farm. This could be done in one year. Do that now and we will literally start seeing bills come down next winter.

Read more: Inside Konstantin Sidorov’s London Technology Club

LUX: What role can renewable energy procurements play in corporations’ broader net zero goals?

GJ: Through our Renewables investment arm, we sign a number of agreements with large energy users to switch to green energy. Those making the choice to go green are taking massive steps forward for decarbonisation agendas across Europe – they are the trailblazers of their industries, and soon the rest will follow their lead.

Greg Jackson is founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Group

Find out more: octopusenergy.group

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a turtle on the grass
turquoise sea and the deep sea with waves next to it

The Nature Conservancy has grown to become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organisations in the world. All images copyright: Carla Sanatana/ TNC Photo Contest 2019, Ethan Daniels, Randy Olsen, TNC Belize, Claire Ryser/TNC Contest 2019, Julieanne Robinson Stockbridge

Non profit environmental organisation, The Nature Conservancy, has over 400 scientists working and impacts conservation in over 75 countries and territories. With the UN Ocean Conference currently taking place in Lisbon, Melissa Garvey, Global Director, Ocean Protection at The Nature Conservancy speaks to LUX about the effectiveness of philanthropy and investment to protect the oceans

LUX: The Nature Conservancy has an interesting niche, combining philanthropy and investment. How does that work?
Melissa Garvey: The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive. Building on nearly six decades of experience, we’ve protected more than 280 million acres of ocean, 119 million acres of land, and 5,000 river miles. We are able to accomplish so much because we make careful use of our resources, maximising the philanthropic and public funding that goes toward our science-driven program work.

We are also able to leverage philanthropic funding with innovative finance strategies. The Nature Conservancy has an impact investing unit that works with our conservation colleagues and collaborators around the world to source and structure investment products that support TNC’s mission at scale. With partners, we have been able to originate, structure, fund and close investment vehicles representing more than $2.3 billion of committed capital. Philanthropy is instrumental in supporting our teams to develop, execute and manage innovative finance strategies that allowing TNC to help countries access billions of dollars in long-term funding for conservation.

shellfish in a fishing boat

LUX: Financing is a key barrier hindering ocean protection. How are you overcoming this barrier?
MG: The Nature Conservancy’s Blue Bonds Strategy is one solution. We transform debt into conservation action at scale.

At the heart of these projects is a basic deal: A coastal nation commits to protect approximately 30% of its near-shore ocean areas. In support, TNC refinances the nation’s sovereign debt, leading to lower interest rates and longer repayment periods. The government uses the savings to capitalise a conservation trust fund to support new marine protected areas to which the country has committed.

TNC’s role is to assemble the deals, use our science and a stakeholder driven marine spatial planning process to facilitate the design of a system of protected areas and create a trust fund that holds the government accountable to its commitments—ensuring that we finance real conservation, not paper parks.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

An example of this is the $553 million debt refinancing we completed in Belize in November 2021. This project enabled the Government of Belize to reduce its debt burden and generate an estimated US$180M for marine conservation in support of Belize’s commitment to protect 30% of its ocean, strengthen governance frameworks for domestic and high sea fisheries, and establish a regulatory framework for coastal blue carbon projects. This is especially meaningful to the people of Belize as the country’s tourist-based economy continues to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19

Our goals is to project 4 million square kilometres of ocean and unlock $1.6 billion for marine conservation.

A coral reef under the sea

LUX: Are blue bonds going to become more significant elements in the market?
MG: The TNC Blue Bonds debt conversion structure is highly scalable and replicable. Transaction sizes and overall market are limited by three criteria:

1)Countries committed to achieving the conservation outcomes. As the threat of climate change and awareness of the role that natural resources and biodiversity play in economic growth rapidly increase, most developing countries will require additional financing for conservation.

2)Availability and affordability of credit enhancement, whether through the US Development Finance Corporation or development banks to do more deals in more markets.

3)Availability of debt to refinance: while debt conversions work well with sovereign debt trading at a discount in the capital markets, they are not exclusively for countries threatened by high debt distress. Many countries have high-coupon bonds. Even if these trade at little to no discount, they can still be refinanced with lower coupons and longer tenors to create significant funding for conservation. Many also have commercial bank loans that may be candidates for refinancing into a lower interest rate and/or longer tenor loans.

turquoise reefs in the sea

LUX: How will sustainable blue economy finance need to develop over the next few years?
MG: Sustainable blue finance is essential to national economies and the 3 billion people rely on healthy oceans for their livelihoods. Financing often holds back countries from implementing ocean conservation that will ensure oceans are sustainable into the future. Philanthropic and public funding is essential but insufficient to close this gap.

Today the challenge of financing the sustainability of our oceans is compounded by the Covid 19 health pandemic and the financial crisis, which has placed unrelenting pressure on public finances and slashed tourism revenues. But there is hope. Innovative debt and market approaches can help bring in new funding at a scale that can address the problem.

LUX: Are you looking for UHNWI individual investors, institutional investors or philanthropists?
MG: Philanthropy is instrumental in supporting our teams to develop, execute and manage strategies, policy and partnerships – including innovative finance strategies — that allow TNC to help countries access billions of dollars in long-term funding for conservation. We simply couldn’t do our work without the generosity of individual and institutional supporters.

a turtle on the grass

LUX: Do governments need to become much more active on ocean protection?
MG: Governments are already active in ocean protection, and there is a lot more to do. We are already three years into the decade during which we have to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. So, this year the global community must finally agree a new and ambitions Global Biodiversity Framework, including a target to globally protect 30% of freshwater, land and the ocean. To deliver against this target, countries must also conclude negotiations in 2022 on a new treaty for the protection and sustainable use of the High Seas with clear powers to establish protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction. But we can’t wait for these treaties to be negotiated before we act. The UN Ocean Conference is an opportunity for the ocean community to both demand action and offer solutions.

LUX: Is there is a risk of creating an uneven market with low-regulation governments allowing exploitative practices on a large scale?
MG: There are always a risk like this. But investing in the health of oceans creates long term benefit. Globally, the gross value of marine ecosystem services is estimated at US $49.7 trillion. This suggests that the economic benefits would far outweigh the costs of establishing a 30% global MPA network. We are developing a costing framework to help decision makers in individual countries better understand today’s costs of implementation and management of ocean protection as well as the long term benefits of marine conservation so that governments, NGOs and the private sector can make more informed choices.

LUX: How important will the role of science and innovation be in the Blue Economy? Can you give some examples?
MG: Science and innovation are essential for Blue Economy interventions that change the way that we protect and value oceans. For example, did you know that you can insure the protective value of nature? You can.

divers in the sea with seaweed around them

It works like this: We know that reefs can decrease the power of waves coming on shore by about 97%. That is really important during the ever more frequent – and increasing more severe – storms. But these storms also take a toll on reefs, which leave coastal areas at greater risk to future damage if the reef isn’t restored. We worked with the insurance industry and put that science into insurance models. Together, we came up with the world’s first insurance policy to insure a portion of the Meso-American reef in Quintana Roo, Mexico that protects areas near Cancun and its $10B tourism industry from hurricanes. If a storm hits, the insurance is triggered to ensure that the reef can be quickly restored. This insurance was tested in the Autumn of 2020 when Hurricane Delta hit. The $800,000 insurance payout funded vital reef repair activities. This is a win for nature, a win for coastal communities and will drive further interest in conservation finance and the need to protect marine ecosystems across the globe.

Read more: Julie Packard: All In Together

LUX: There is no metric to compare the value of different nature-based solutions in ocean conservation, and no consistent measure of the effectiveness. Is this true, and is it an issue?
MG: I don’t agree that we can’t measure nature-based solutions. The reef insurance I mentioned above is one example. Here’s another: Blue Carbon Resilience Credits. We know that the coastal wetlands provides a unique opportunity for climate finance. If we restored even a quarter of these habitats, we would add 10 million hectares of carbon-trapping wetlands to our coastlines. That is an area equivalent in size to Iceland. In addition, protecting existing coastal wetlands would prevent the release of 80 million tons of carbon emissions currently being stored by these habitats.

A fishing village with boats in the water

TNC worked with international experts to develop science, flood modelling, and carbon and resilience methodologies for the Blue Carbon Resilience Credit. These credits support not just carbon mitigation, but also quantifiable, verifiable resilience benefits like flood reduction to adjacent communities. We have identified projects across the US and globally and are bringing our first supply of Blue Carbon Resilience Credits to market.

LUX: You say a comprehensive approach is best for ocean investment. How should this work?
MG: To achieve truly durable ocean protection, we have to focus on scale and representativeness of the areas we conserve, as well as ensuring long term financing for conservation, and equity and sustainable livelihoods for the people who rely on oceans. Our global ocean protection program drives new protection, restoration, and management improvement in support of biodiversity and communities.

We work at multiple scales. We address the long-term need to secure large-scale new protection and sustainable financing for marine conservation while we tackle today’s urgent need to restore critical coastal ecosystems — like coral reefs and coastal wetlands — and improve management of our oceans, while we build capacity for communities to manage their marine resources.

Find out more: nature.org

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Reading time: 8 min
two men standing at the end of a table giving a talk
two men standing at the end of a table giving a talk

London Technology Club lunch with Alexandre Mars at The Arts Club

Konstantin Sidorov founded the London Technology Club to create a space for investors and tech professionals to network and exchange ideas within the industry. Here he speaks to Samantha Welsh about the benefits of bringing like-minded individuals together to establish trusted relationships.
grey suit and pink shirt sitting in front of a sign that says 'London Technology Club'

Konstantin Sidorov

LUX: What is your opinion on the valuation of tech companies right now?
KS: It is useless to discuss the overall tech market valuation in general – many people have different opinions. Some companies look too expensive, some fairly reasonable. It is worth looking at the valuation of a particular company. And our task as a club is to provide our expertise and opinion to our members regarding the company valuation and potential value growth.

We have always reinforced the need to exercise discipline as a tech investor. At LTC, we examine both the prospects and tech moat of a company – but also the deal terms of an investment opportunity. We source our opportunities from world-class VCs that are often lead investors in a round, and therefore there is conviction from them in terms of the company and its technology.

LUX: Why did you create the London Technology Club?
Konstantin Sidorov: Venture capital is an access class not an asset class, and, when I first moved to London, I found that getting access to the best tech investment deals was all about trusted relationships. I saw that London was the capital of the world for clubs – for wine, automobiles and art – but there was no club to bring together like-minded people passionate about tech investing. So, I turned an initial idea into a sophisticated community of tech investors to have access to the best tech deals. By working with our VC partners, we are able to provide curated, high-quality level of deal flow for our members.

men standing in suits on a terrace

London Technology Club event in Dubai

LUX: Can you tell us about your preferred fund structure and your approach to diversification?
KS: Our trademark fund is the LTC Pledge Fund: a segregated portfolio fund that raises once a year. We diversify through a mix of directs (80%) and funds (20%), and in terms of verticals – from AI to mobility, and impact to fintech. We are also diversified in terms of geography; while a slight majority of our investments go to US, we are also spread across Europe, Asia and MENA. Given the sort of ticket size required for the best growth stage opportunities, by creating our fund we provide access that the limited partnerss would be less able to access on their own.

LUX: You started Pledge Fund I in 2020 and Pledge Fund II in 2021. What have your case studies shown to be your sweet spot – and how are you achieving those internal rates of return (IRR)?
KS: Since the start of Pledge Fund I we have had five exits and they were built off the back of my personal investment exits – such as Airbnb and Spotify. We were able to return 30% of capital of Pledge Fund I back to investors within 20 months with IRR above 86%.

Our sweet spot is companies with a valuation of $100m – $1bn, with proven revenues and growth. Our five exits to date reinforce our strategic approach where we balance risk and reward.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: How have you seen ESG emerge during your career, and how do you see it developing from here?
KS: We are incredibly proud of our Future Technology Series reports; we’ve published over 13 in three years. They explore how technology will impact areas that our members are passionate about – from space to art, F1 to longevity, and finance to property.

ESG was one of our recent reports. For me, what has changed is people’s realisation that companies can’t just be focused on shareholder returns. We are part of an interconnected system and have a duty to both people and the planet.

People sitting around a long table with breakfast food on it

London Technology Club breakfast with UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan at the Royal Automobile Club

While everyone should be looking at ESG as business hygiene for their own companies, it is also important to consider how ESG is integrated into investments. There is some way to go, especially within venture capital. Many companies are early on in their ESG journey which we see as a good opportunity to ensure they instill ESG into their business processes. We firmly believe there is a strong correlation between companies that have strong ESG fundamentals in place and investment success.

LUX: Where do you see the role for tech in ‘slow’ industries where rarity, heritage and craftsmanship are the inherent values?
KS: We have written reports about the impact of tech on fine wine, art and fashion. From our research, we have seen a move towards the ‘creator economy’ where a craftsman or woman creates and ‘mints’ their product (i.e creates a digital asset as part of the process).

Read more: Volta’s Kamiar Maleki On Supporting New Artistic Talent

NFTs are an example of that currently. Fine wine makers could, for example, by creating digital tokens to accompany their bottles, ensure that they can track the onward sales, opening, value and storage.

This tracking ability means that the creator benefits from smart contracts that dictate that every time that bottle is sold on, the creator receives a percentage commission. It means that the creator, rightly so, reaps more reward from their creation. Tech is at the centre of progress for luxury and collectibles and I would recommend our reports to readers.

a wine bottle in a wooden case

London Technology Club Super Tuscan Wine Tasting

LUX: How are you personally leading the deployment of tech to explore solutions to problems in the real world?
KS: For tech to be effective and generate returns it must solve real world problems. We are very interested in climate-first technology and have invested in numerous foodtech companies that are looking to solve challenges on food security, waste, cultivated meats and reduce environmental impacts. We have invested in companies that seek to reduce the cost of transport and improve mobility. We are big believers in tech as a force for good and so hope that our club creates the right environment for investors to be able to deploy their capital for returns that also have a positive impact on societies. As LTC’s General Partner I lead from the front to create such environments.

LUX: At LUX, we share your love of Ornellaia and Sassicaia .. please tell us about how this passion came about?
KS: We are a club known for our regular live events in Mayfair, so when lockdown came we moved quickly to gather the community online. Being based above 67 Pall Mall, the amazing wine club in London, we were able to arrange distribution for wine to be sent out to members. We would do group Zoom calls where we tasted Super Tuscans while discussing tech investments. Both Simon, our COO, and I have a love for Italian wine so it was an easy one to agree internally to do, and it reiterates our mission as a club to provide the best technology investment opportunities, discussion and experiences.

Find out more: londontechnologyclub.com

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sun setting behind the clouds
sun setting behind the clouds

Photograph by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

The pandemic has accelerated the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. However, argues Markus Müller, we must improve global standards continually if ESG is to fulfil its promise of driving economic growth while having a positive impact on the planet
portrait of a man in a suit

Markus Müller

The coronavirus pandemic has made us acutely aware of risks to our existence and how fragile the global economic system is. Many are making the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic part of the reason why ESG has risen rapidly to the top of the global agenda, moving from rhetoric and ambition to action. At the same time, the many facets of ESG are being discussed and examined across a multitude of investment institutions, to establish what it really means and whether it serves a purpose at all.

In my view, ESG prompts a simple question about why and how we do things, as individuals, as investors and as companies.

ESG originally developed from institutional investors screening out negative risks in investment targets. Today, ESG is much more than a combination of investment ratings and exclusions. With the goal of sustainability as our objective, ESG offers a way of understanding and quantifying the non-financial dimension of economic activity and of avoiding the dangers of a ‘submerged iceberg’.

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This means identifying where the risks lie and developing innovative mitigation strategies. Mid- to long-term risk for an investor comes in many forms. Physical risks (damage or threat to physical assets due to natural or climate change) are accompanied by transition risks (business or investment risks on the journey towards a greener economy) and liability risks (reputational issues, breach of standards). These risks can affect companies in a variety of ways. Production disruption, raw material and share price volatility and capital destruction are just a few examples. Importantly, it all involves understanding nature as an asset, as an input factor in our production function.

Innovation means finding ways to avoid those risks while embracing change and preparing for new future-oriented businesses which are ESG-positive. This has two prerequisites. First, we need more data disclosure to measure the impact of what we are doing. Secondly, we need goals and an evaluation method. These two issues are linked: data will give us an understanding of the impact of economic activity and how to steer economic development, which in turn should allow us to refine these goals.

Systematic decision-making is more than just a means to an end in order to achieve an overarching, positive goal within the Purpose Economy. We must also ensure that, when looking at equitability of impact, a distinction is not merely made between labour- and capital-intensive activities. Rather, impacts should be considered in three ways: the impact of individuals (including companies); the impact of politics (including governments and institutions); and the impact of nature (including natural resources).

Fortunately, we already have broad goals. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the linked UN Principles for Responsible Investment, along with the Paris Agreements as well as the (failed) Aichi Biodiversity Targets, have set the initial direction. But there is still no consistent global approach about how to go beyond these broad goals and to put them in a detailed synthesis with financial markets. Standards can help. Reporting is widening its scope: the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) was recently launched to go beyond ESG scores and climate change, to include the risk factor represented by biodiversity loss. The International Financial Standards Reporting Foundation (IFSR) has also proposed the inclusion of sustainability standards within its constitution as it aims for the establishment of an International Sustainability Standards Board.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

So, we are advancing on multiple fronts, but the scale of the task here is enormous: even within rating agencies, ESG ratings and scores vary due to differing methodologies. Global sustainability standards for company reporting would allow integrating data, insights and ESG themes into business strategy, product-development cycles and risk management. Harmonised standards would also allow us to improve scoring, enabling a more sophisticated discussion of what exactly scores mean and the importance of a company improving its ESG score rather than just accepting it or simply trying to ‘game’ it.

At Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank we continue to develop our methodology to make sense of this evolving landscape on global standards. We use ratings, drawing on the research and analysis of a leading third party provider, but it is important to consider these in context. We realise that we have to give firms credit for improvement on ESG metrics, for example. We also apply exclusions against sectors that go against UN goals and principles and generate long-term risks (around greenhouse gases, for example). Exclusions can also be applied on more individual value-based grounds.

Methodologies such as this require continual improvement through monitoring their effect on sustainability. But the priority should be to ensure that the impact of ESG on a client’s investments should be transparent and that they will lead to improved corporate behaviour on ESG issues. If we wish to make transparent the impact of our ESG activities, and if we want our economies to be ESG-positive, we need to all follow the same methods.

ESG is here to stay as a categorical imperative. It will, at the very least, slow down environmental degradation and will make the world and our lives richer and more meaningful.

Markus Müller is Global Head of the Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. Find out more: deutschewealth.com/esg

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Angkor Wat
Eugenia Koh wearing a blue dress

Eugenia Koh, Head of impact and sustainable investing at Standard Chartered

Eugenia Koh believes that while philanthropic support is essential, capital markets must help to close the funding gap for global sustainable development goals. Here, Koh, head of impact and sustainable investing at Standard Chartered, speaks to Samantha Welsh about current trends among next gen investors and how they are influencing their families to become more sustainable

LUX: Which sectors are your UHNW next generation clients eyeing post-pandemic?
Eugenia Koh: We find that they are particularly passionate about entrepreneurship and sustainable development. We conducted a thought leadership survey at the height of the pandemic, which found that clean water and sanitation, good health and wellbeing, climate action, quality education, and zero hunger were among the causes of highest importance to investors.

LUX: Does this growing preoccupation with ESG have any intergenerational repercussions?
Eugenia Koh: There are increasing demands on the next generation of clients globally as they navigate a wide range of fast-moving challenges which may be very different from those that their parents face. The resilience and increased interest in sustainable investment during the pandemic has helped some next gen investors with educating their families on the topic. One of them had his sustainable portfolio outperform the family’s main portfolio, and this has changed the family’s view to be more receptive to exploring sustainable investments and how they can help with better risk management and performance.

Deforestation in California due to the wild fires

LUX: How easy is it to measure the performance of ESG investments?
Eugenia Koh: It is important not to be overly simplistic in using performance as a marketing tool as not all ESG investments outperform, depending on the strategy used and depth of ESG integration. When linking to performance, the concept of materiality is key. Not all ESG factors are equal and material: ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ factors differ based on industries. Take, for instance, airlines: their material ESG factors would include fuel efficiency, carbon emissions and health and safety practices, which would have a bigger impact on bottom line and consumer expectations as compared with such issues as child labour. Material ESG factors have a potential impact on financial performance, either in influencing value creation or destruction.

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LUX: How do you foster a sense of community among participants of the Future Global Leaders Programme?
Eugenia Koh: We keep the experience intimate by keeping the number of participants small, but diverse. Our next gen clients come from a variety of backgrounds: some are entrepreneurs themselves; others are involved in their family business, or are doing something completely different. They appreciate the opportunity to discuss topics that are close to their hearts.

A garbage slum

LUX: What’s your go-to advice for next gen investors?
Eugenia Koh: To be clear on their objectives. Just as investors demand rigour in their traditional investments to achieve their financial objectives, they should likewise be clear about their impact objectives and the best approaches to achieve this.

LUX: How can investors avoid fraud, greenwashing and Covid-washing?
Eugenia Koh: Investors should ask their advisers about the ESG strategies of the companies into which they are investing, as well as learning about how ESG factors are integrated into the fund manager’s selection process. At Standard Chartered, due diligence is an important part of what we do. We have launched ESG Select, our in-house review framework, to better support clients in their selection of high quality ESG products with a strong performance track record.

Read more: Deloitte’s Jessica Hodges on Sustainable Investing 

LUX: Tell us about Standard Chartered’s sustainable development goals.
Eugenia Koh: We contribute to raising standards across the world and support the fight against climate change while playing our part in reducing poverty and global inequality. For instance, we are contributing to climate action and clean affordable energy with our commitment to provide project financing services for $40 billion of infrastructure projects that promote sustainable development. We are also looking to raise $75 million for our foundation, Futuremakers, in order to reach 50,000 young people, micro and small businesses to reduce inequalities.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

LUX: What drives your own passion for sustainable, responsible, impact investing?
Eugenia Koh: I remember going to Cambodia as a youth with my church group to engage and help the community there and being struck by the poverty, especially in one of our trips to a garbage slum. My friends and I decided to make an annual trip there to continue engagement with the youths we had befriended, and one of my friends eventually moved to set up a social enterprise in Cambodia. That was my first experience with impact investing and leveraging business to uplift families out of poverty.

My [subsequent] experience in grant-making and CSR has helped me see that while philanthropic support is essential, there is also a role that capital markets and finance can play in sustainable development. There remains a significant funding gap in achieving the [UN] Sustainable Development Goals — the annual financing gap to achieve the SDGs by 2030 currently sits at $2.5 trillion — and we need the private sector and finance to play a role in contributing towards this. I am excited when I come across clients and investors who are passionate about contributing towards this, and to be able to help them in their journey.

Eugenia Koh is Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing at Standard Chartered Bank

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James Chen standing in front of plants
James Chen standing in front of plants

James Chen, Chairman, Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation and ‘Vision for a Nation’

‘Moonshot Philanthropist’ James Chen speaks to LUX about the importance of risking capital for a mission that matters

James Chen is on a mission to tackle a major problem that most of humankind doesn’t even realise exists. There are more than two billion people worldwide who suffer from debilitatingly poor vision, with no recourse to help. And yet all it would take to transform their lives is a simple pair of prescription glasses. Poor vision is a life sentence that could easily be lifted, with just a little help. In what he refers to as ‘moonshot philanthropy’, Chen – softly spoken, thoughtful and himself a wearer of prescription glasses – set out to change the world.

During his eighteen-year philanthropic journey, Chen has pioneered developments in optical technology through his company Adlens and overseen its implementation in the developing world through his NGO, Vision For A Nation. In July this year, largely due to pressure from his campaign Clearly, the UN adopted a Vision for Everyone resolution, which was unanimously agreed upon by all 193 member states. By recognising vision as a basic human right, the resolution will kickstart a global effort to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Here, Chen speaks to LUX about his mission.

LUX: You were influenced by your father to become involved in philanthropy. Tell us about that.
James Chen: When my father retired from business, he devoted himself to philanthropy in his hometown. I think a lot of people at that time were very generous, [but] they [only] wrote cheques. The difference with my dad was that he actually went there himself, a few times a year: he made that seven-hour trip [to his hometown], got to know the people and their needs. He set up schools, hospitals, town halls, and everything in between. Later, when he got old and stepped back from it, [I used it as] impetus for setting up the family foundation. Personally it was very gratifying to work with the family, and to build on his legacy, in China. But I wanted do dig into something meaningful globally. I had no idea what it would be.

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LUX: So how did the problem of vision come onto your radar?
Jame Chen: I came across this Oxford professor [Dr. Rob Stevens] who invented adjustable-powered lenses, and it immediately clicked with me. I grew up in Nigeria, where our family business still is, and for most of my career I’ve also been in developing Asia. The thing that struck me was that very few people wore glasses there – either because they don’t need them, or they don’t have access to them. When I met this professor, I could see how I could help solve the problem.

people trying glasses in Rwanda

Thanks to Chen’s campaign Clearly, the UN is aiming to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Image by Sarah Day

LUX: Adlens is the vehicle you created to tackle this. What was that journey like?
James Chen: I formed Adlens with [Dr. Stevens]. We wanted to develop the technology and apply it commercially in the developed world, and socially in the developing world. My team spent two years knocking on the door of the World Bank, which ultimately rejected us. The industry and professionals said that it couldn’t be solved, but their model of delivery of glasses is to high resource environments: that model falls over in the developing world. That’s why we set up Vision For A Nation, an NGO, to test our model in a low-resource environment. We picked Rwanda, and developed a protocol to train nurses in three days to do a good enough eye test, and to dispense glasses. In five years, we screened 2.5 million of the 12 million population in Rwanda and dispensed 300,000 pairs of glasses. We left at the end of 2017, [having] done the thing that the policymakers said couldn’t be done.

LUX:  How did you scale that model?
James Chen: Instead of replicating the program one country at a time, I knew that this was a global problem: we had to think differently. That’s where I applied my risk capital to start the Clearly Campaign. Our target was to get policymakers to understand what we called ‘the problem that the world forgot’. We said, ‘if you have uncorrected poor vision, how are you going to achieve your sustainable development goals?’. For someone who has poor vision, it’s probably going to affect their educational outcome, their productivity; even gender equality is affected by poor vision. That’s the crux of our campaign.

LUX:  This concept of philanthropy and vision, had anyone done that before you?
James Chen: No one [has] thought of it in terms of a bigger scale. That’s why I had a brick wall when I first started looking into this. People do these programs [where they] go to a village and take glasses, but that doesn’t, to me, solve the problem. Poor vision is always put into the health silo: in the priorities of what governments have to tackle in developing countries, there’s a whole list of things that are perceived as higher priority than blurry vision. But there are 2.2 billion people in the world who have poor vision, of which, for at least 1 billion people, all they need is a pair of glasses to correct it.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

LUX: Why do you think it took a philanthropist with no prior knowledge of the sector, instead of scientists and governments, to solve the issue?
James Chen: A key problem in the world of aid is there is very little risk capital available. As a philanthropist, I am in the privileged position of being able to take risk with my capital. If it’s successful, it’s hugely impactful. If it fails, I can absorb that loss. It’s now my prime mission [to incentivise] the high net-worth community to do the same. I coined this phrase ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’, and I came up with a tagline: ‘privatise failure, socialise success’.

James Chen giving a speech

Chen delivering a speech at a Sightgeist event in London

LUX: What would you say to people to encourage them to do ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’?
James Chen: Recognise the superpower that we have as ultra-high net worth individuals: we can deploy our own capital, and we can take as much risk as we want. Most of the high net-worth community do not deploy that superpower.

LUX: Do you think there is enough dialogue between philanthropists?
James Chen: No. There’s still a lot of scope [for that]. There’s all this noise around impact, investing, and social enterprise, and lots of donors have become confused. Most people who call themselves philanthropists are really doing charity or patronage. With the ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’ idea I want to plant that seed so that there is a model for people to use. I think I’m in a unique position to reframe this, to help people to grasp it. That’s the good thing about philanthropy: it’s different from business. In business you’ve got a great idea and then you try to maximise the value. In philanthropy, if you think you have a great idea, share it, and let people run with it. That’s the best way to scale it.

LUX: What’s next?
James Chen: I’m very focused on proving the link between vision correction and its impact on things like productivity and education outcome. We need to provide the evidence base so that governments will invest. It’s not just helping me by doing all this; I’m bringing more awareness, and capital, and support to the whole sector.

Find out more: jameschen.vision

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woman giving a speech
a foggy mountain

Harnessing renewable energy from sources like hydro electric power is essential for investing in the future

Jessica Hodges

Jessica Hodges

From renewable energy to alternative food products, biotech to healthcare, ESG is helping to bring impact to the forefront of investment portfolios. As a partner at Deloitte, Jessica Hodges is responsible for helping private clients build responsible investments into their portfolios. She speaks to LUX about the increasing centrality of ESG to business strategy and why family offices need to be ahead of the curve. By Samantha Welsh, Philanthropy Editor.

LUX: What drove your own interest in ESG?
Jessica Hodges: I was interested in ESG issues from a young age – albeit the acronym didn’t exist yet – and was always keen to get involved in projects that had a social or environmental angle. My job means I come into contact with a large number of families, and I’m keen to ensure that we, and they, make an impact through the work we do. Considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks is becoming increasingly central to business strategy.

LUX: What trends are you currently noticing among family offices?
Jessica Hodges: Family offices are all unique, but generally we are seeing more of an interest from the next generation in issues that have a positive impact on the environment and on society. Younger generations are becoming increasingly involved in managing their family’s wealth and demanding investments that align with their values. They are particularly focused on how they measure ESG impact, considering on a case by case basis the impact companies are having and how they may change to align to ESG values, as well as using data to understand it.

Many next gen clients feel a real sense of obligation – particularly if the source of their wealth may not have been considered to have positive impacts in the past. Often in a family with multiple siblings, you might see one sibling managing the family business, one running the family office and one leading the philanthropic side of things.

LUX: Which sectors are next gen investors most interested in?
Jessica Hodges: Areas of focus include renewable energy infrastructure projects; alternative food products; agricultural technology and alternative farming; healthcare and biotech. What is so interesting is how ESG is bringing that ‘impact’ element into the broader investment portfolio – an area I think family offices are ahead of the curve on.

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LUX: What makes family offices potentially well suited to ESG investing?
Jessica Hodges: Family offices typically have more control over deciding and managing their priorities than public funds as they are private. They do not have to respond to shareholder demand in the same way, and have flexibility over how they use their large pools of capital. Their investment horizons are also often long term: instead of looking to make a quick return, they invest over five year periods or more, and do not have the same financial return requirements that larger venture capital firms have.

Being smaller, and typically more flexible and agile, makes it easier to introduce policy change and implement if they have the skillset to do so. Additionally, there are some family offices that are heavily focused on supporting their local community, helping to make more noticeable and measurable change locally rather than on a macro level.

Jessica Hodges delivering a speech tog gusts in front of a screen

Jessica Hodges delivering a speech at the Deloitte Family Office Conference

LUX: What basic interventions can a family make to incorporate ESG targets into an investment model which has been in place for generations?
Jessica Hodges: Due diligence of sustainability practices is key. This is an area that family offices will need to consider planning for, as a resource for sufficient oversight of external managers could be an issue for smaller organisations. It’s also key to have effective controls in place to measure and monitor fund managers, and ensure strategic objectives set by the family office are met.

ESG-proof due diligence and investment processes are also extremely important. This can include fully understanding the investment philosophy of any external managers (without any complicated jargon), obtaining evidence of shareholder engagement, and verifying performance data. The easiest intervention to make is often an exclusionary policy: the family picks a few areas they are not willing to invest in, such as organisations that negatively impact the environment or public health.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

LUX: The ESG sector is unregulated and family offices value authenticity and trust: how do managers evaluate risks such as data validation, fraud, and greenwashing?
Jessica Hodges: It’s key that family offices have independently verified credentials. Besides checking a firm’s governance mechanisms, internal systems and controls, assurance would focus on whether there is a positive risk or ESG culture and a good level of awareness. In the same way that auditors come in to very financial data, providers will come to verify non-financial data over ESG metrics.

LUX: How is the ESG industry model disrupting traditional investing models?
Jessica Hodges: Firms are trying to determine which of their investments have both positive and negative social or environmental impacts and want to be clear on the implications of these with their public disclosures. They are also figuring out factors that will resonate most with their clients. If product governance is not thought through properly then there could well be negative consequences. My expectation is that there will be increased monitoring requirements with regards to asset portfolios, leading to additional costs – although proponents of this would argue that it is money well spent.

The sales part of the investment cycle is more complex since investors in ESG are not seeking to solely meet financial return objectives: at what point do you determine your exit? Historically, family offices – along with private equity – might have been looking to exit at the point when they could maximise their financial profits. Now, family offices will need to consider whether the targets outlined have been achieved, along with the broader impact on society or environment.

LUX: What makes a successful family office?
Jessica Hodges: The most important thing for a ‘successful’ family office is alignment of goals, and understanding what the family hopes to achieve. It is only by knowing where you want to get to that you can understand if you have really got there and measure how you performed!

Landscape photography by Isabella Sanai

Jessica Hodges is an Investment Management Audit and Assurance Partner at Deloitte

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vineyard on hillside
man in suit sitting on edge of table
Utsava Kasera is a next-gen portfolio entrepreneur who has put his faith in his latest investment: a premium Prosecco, aimed at shaking up the drink market in the UK and US. The Indian-born, UK-educated citizen of the world speaks to Anna Tyzack about his business portfolio across tech, fashion and hospitality, and his new direction in sustainability

Portrait photography by Charlie Gray

It was Phantom, Mandrake and Tintin comics, or rather the lack of them in India, that drove Utsava Kasera to start his first business at the age of 12. His group of friends were as obsessed with comics as he was, and as there weren’t many available locally, he started a small library. “When my father travelled to the big cities like Delhi and Bombay [Mumbai], he’d bring one back for me; if I did well in my exams, he might bring back two, and I’d rent them out to my friends,” he explains. “The library was a good lesson in entrepreneurship: where demand exceeds supply, there is always the chance to start an exciting business.”

It is this entrepreneurial spirit that has driven him towards his venture, an intriguing attempt to shake up the drinks market. While prestige champagnes have proliferated, and the market for the cheaper Italian sparkling wine, prosecco, has expanded, there has been no crossover between the two categories. Until now: Kasera has invested in a premium prosecco as a rival to champagne.

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The rollout of Ombra Di Pantera is now being driven in the UK. “The UK is one of the biggest markets for prosecco – more people drink it than champagne. And yet there are few luxury options, few competitors to grande marque, non-vintage champagnes like Moët et Chandon or Veuve Clicquot,” he says.

Ombra Di Pantera is the answer to this gap in the market – it’s the finest quality prosecco and will soon be available online and then in a select number of London’s bars and restaurants. “Our vineyards produce the most refined Glera grapes, used in the best proseccos, and the family in charge is passionate about production and cultivating and harvesting the grapes, and they have passed this passion and their techniques down through the generations,” he explains. The name pays homage to the Venetian term for prosecco, ombra de vin, ‘wine’s shadow’ – it is said that in ancient times the traders in Piazza San Marco kept the wine cool by storing it in the shadow of the Campanile. “Prosecco is faster to produce than champagne and it is drunk when it’s younger, but the best ones are exceptional,” Kasera says. “I’ve learnt from whisky that age doesn’t necessarily define the quality – it’s about the vintage and the methods of production.”

vineyard on hillside

The winery at Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto

As with all Kasera’s investments and business ventures, the opportunity to create Ombra Di Pantera was a case of right place, right time. He was introduced to the Italian family who had been cultivating the beautiful Ombra Di Pantera vineyards for many generations and he immediately saw the potential. He had similar good fortune, he says, when he met Kevin Pietersen for coffee and soon signed up to invest in the cricketer’s ethical fashion label, SORAI, set up to preserve and protect endangered species; and when he met the founders of the Singapore private members club, 1880, in which he is now an investor and advisor.

Read more: Olivia Muniak on how collective dining brings us together

Kasera says his own father drilled into him early on that you make your own luck in life. From nothing his father built up a successful chemical company supplying the chemicals to manufacturers of a detergent that is now a well-known name in northern and eastern India, a market of hundreds of millions of consumers. As a boy, Kasera used to love hearing his father talk about his world travels and the people he met along the way. “In 1972 he flew to Afghanistan and hitchhiked to the Munich Olympics; in Munich he met a guy on a bus who he stayed with for the next three months; they stayed in touch and that same guy went to my sister’s wedding in India,” he says. “It’s stories like these that showed me how small the world is if you take the time to explore it. I knew from the start that a 9-to-5 job wasn’t going to be for me.”

tractor on a vineyard

At school Kasera was a sports star, being the city captain for table tennis and a keen cricketer. After graduating from university in Delhi, he studied at the London School of Economics and gained a master’s in international business and emerging markets at the University of Edinburgh. “It was overwhelming at first – the language, the curriculum and the different culture – but it was good experience for me; there were people from 26 countries in my class.” Along with gaining his master’s he made a cosmopolitan network of friends and learnt to appreciate whisky and cognac. He was recently listed on the University of Edinburgh’s Alumni 100, a showcase of its Business School’s most inspiring former students and is also now an advisor to the British Council’s Creative Spark Higher Education Enterprise Programme. “It’s great to be able to help motivate young potential entrepreneurs to realise their potential,” he says.

His main investment focuses are now tech, luxury and environmentally sustainable solutions; in 2011 he worked on a sustainability project in the chemical industry in Switzerland and Germany, fostering in him an interest in renewable energy. “It’s been a process of learning as I go along,” he says. “I’ve made some bad investments that didn’t turn out as I hoped but I’ve got a good feel for it now – it’s so rewarding when things go well.”

italian landscape

The vineyard where the Glera grapes for Ombra Di Pantera are grown.

The entrepreneurial landscape has opened up dramatically since he left Edinburgh, he continues, largely due to social media. When used intelligently, social networking platforms break down so many boundaries, he says, allowing entrepreneurs and investors to reach a huge audience without expense. “It enables things to happen out of the blue; it brings people and opportunities together,” he says.

Read more: Pomellato’s Kintsugi collection imagines a more sustainable jewellery industry

Some of the truly unique opportunities, however, are still found away from social media and screens, he says – the bourbon whisky that he discovered in Austin, Texas through word of mouth, for example, and the Pinot Noir he tried in Armenia that he says would rival a good red Burgundy. For entrepreneurial inspiration, Kasera thus aims to explore five new countries a year; so far this year he’s visited Armenia, the Seychelles and Northern Ireland and Georgia. He also reads extensively and makes a point of expanding his network wherever he is in the world, often choosing to stay in Airbnb accommodation or with friends rather than checking in to a hotel.

man leaning against fence wearing a suit

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic put a damper on his travels. While this was frustrating in many ways, forcing him to put investment and philanthropic plans on hold, the time at home helped him gain new perspective. “I like to be busy; I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do in the future, what’s on the horizon,” he says. “I read the Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das, which is a secular reading of the great epic, Mahabharata. It relates so much to modern times, which I found very inspiring.” He also taught himself to cook, perfecting Indian-style scrambled eggs with coriander, spices and tomato, and, with Ombra Di Pantera in mind, completed a WSET level 1 online wine course.

As the world opens up again, Kasera is looking forward to Ombra Di Pantera’s unveiling in New York City, where he aspires to open a prosecco bar to give more people the chance to sample fine prosecco. “I hope it will be a brand ambassador for Ombra Di Pantera as well as hosting small pairing lunches and dinners,” he says. “I’d like to see Ombra Di Pantera inspiring a whole new area of luxury proseccos.”

What’s also sure is that it’s impossible to tell what sector new generation entrepreneurs like Kasera will be investing in. Sector-agnostic, and symbolic of his generation, truly global, he looks for opportunities that expand and stretch the luxury sector, increasingly with sustainability in mind. He remains tight-lipped about his next ventures, but I suspect they will be increasingly impactful in the new world of luxury.

prosecco bottles

 

The premium Prosecco

Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco Superiore Brut Millesimato DOCG aims to conquer the hearts of aficionados of champagne and other high-end sparkling wines, who may not previously have considered a prosecco. The Glera grapes that go into this wine are grown in the foothills of the Alps north of Venice, in an area with sunny days and cool nights. This gives a balance of ripeness and freshness. The result of hand-harvesting, careful selection of grapes and a personalised winemaking process is a sparkling wine that is creamy and light.

My favourite indulgence

“Depending on the time of day and the mood, it’ll either be a whisky or a cognac. As a ritual before dinner with friends, or if I’m admiring a view, I’ll drink a glass of Louis XIII 100-year-old cognac. It never fails to get me in the right mood. Whisky is a passion I share with my friends; we taste it together, we collect it and we exchange notes.”

Find out more: ombradipantera.com

Thank you to Nobu Hotel London Portman Square for providing The Nobu Penthouse for our shoot. Styling by Grace Gilfeather; grooming by Brady Lea (Premier Hair and Make-up).

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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urban park

Manfredi Catella, CEO of COIMA and president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation

Manfredi Catella is the CEO of COIMA, the real estate company behind Porta Nuova in Milan, one of the most important real estate developments in Europe. He is also president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation which aims to promote sustainable and responsible urban development by improving and animating public spaces. Here, Catella discusses transforming urban environments, mixing business with philanthropy and how technology advances sustainability efforts

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has had an interest in promoting sustainability long before sustainability became a buzzword, how did this come about?
Manfredi Catella: The Riccardo Catella Foundation was established in 2005 in honour of my father, the entrepreneur Riccardo Catella. At the time, not many entities were focused on promoting ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), or impact indicators in investments, and we felt it could be our contribution to set up a non-profit organisation committed to promoting sustainable territorial development. We also have the ambition to educate communities about the effects of climate change and what actions need to be taken to fight and prevent this phenomenon. We do this through a citizen engagement program of civic-cultural projects within the realm of green and public spaces in the city of Milan. We believe it is important to listen to citizens in order to understand their vision for the urban space surrounding their homes and integrate programs and services that can improve their quality of daily life.

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LUX: What is the most exciting philanthropic project you are currently working on and why?
Manfredi Catella: At the moment, the philanthropic project where we are dedicating a lot of our energy to is The Riccardo Catella Foundation’s management of Milan’s third largest park, BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano), which we undertook together with COIMA on behalf of the Municipality of Milan. It is the first public private partnership in Italy that allows a private foundation to manage such a vast public and green space in the city centre. The 10 hectares of the botanical garden, which was developed by COIMA as part of its Porta Nuova development, is a ground-breaking project that aims to involve companies, non-profit sector, and citizens (BAMFriends) in the management of a public area. In addition, we animate the park through a cultural program based on four pillars: open-air culture, education, wellness and nature.

urban park

BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano) is Milan’s third largest park, managed by The Riccardo Catella Foundation

Ensuring the safety of the local community in the outside spaces has been particularly important since the start of the pandemic. We have been increasing services to enable greater green mobility over the past year. The changes are visible to park visitors. In outdoor areas, new bike racks have been set up, with information on anti Covid-19 measures, sanitising gel dispensers and continuous sanitisation services for floors, children’s playgrounds and communal areas. Safety is the starting point for a series of inclusive initiatives such as Wi-Fi enhancement and the launch of the Porta Nuova Milano app, which is designed to book events and services in the area.

LUX: Please explain your workings in neighbourhood community management?
Manfredi Catella: COIMA believes that the only way for the built environment to help fight climate change and to promote diversity is to integrate them into the basic economic, social and environmental model of every real estate development and by setting measurable objectives and transparently reporting on those objectives. We believe in placing nature and humans at the centre of all real estate development and urban regeneration schemes. In Porta Nuova, we have created a thriving urban environment that enables constant interaction between nature and architecture. There are walkways, green spaces, and piazzas with spaces created for exercise, relaxation, and socialising, all of which welcomes 10 million people every year. It includes Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano (BAM), an innovative urban park and botanical garden, which plays host to a diverse programme of cultural events and activities for residents, workers, and visitors alike.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: Why do you think it is important to mix business with philanthropy?
Manfredi Catella: In general, the corporate approach to philanthropy has really evolved, and over the last ten years in particular, there has been a shift towards a model of collaboration and sustainable, long-term initiatives. It is important to mix business with philanthropy because corporations have a highly influential role on the social and natural world in which we live. It is also important as sustainable business models have a strong track record of delivering superior returns. Corporate philanthropy is no longer about simply giving money and walking away. By using the skills, tools, and approach of our business, we can continuously monitor the impact of our work and ensure it is having the best possible outcome for those who need it.

The pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our world and we believe that business has a duty to create positive change and a sustainable future as we recovery economically from Covid. This led us to establish the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund in 2020; an investment fund focused on sustainable urban regeneration. We aim to use this fund to redesign new physical and social models for housing, tourism and urban regeneration of neighbourhoods and believe that sustainable real estate can play a central role in a post Covid recovery. As responsible managers of institutional capitol from all over the world, we believe can help shape the future.

skyscraper

Bosco Verticale was designed by Boeri Studio, and built and managed by COIMA as part of the  Porta Nuova development

LUX: Apart from sustainability projects, are there any other philanthropic causes you have a particular interest in?
Manfredi Catella: Since 2018, we have been promoting an important social inclusion project through the Riccardo Catella Foundation, together with the Dynamo Camp association, called the Porta Nuova Smart Camp. It is an inclusive and innovative project for children both with and without serious pathologies and disabilities. Nature, sustainable architecture, and technological innovation are topics at the centre of the camp’s activities, along with incorporating the values of the Foundation and the community of COIMA’s Porta Nuova development.

LUX: How has working closely with local communities over the last 10 years changed your outlook on real estate development?
Manfredi Catella: We are recognised as a sustainable real estate company because it has long been our goal to create projects with a strong positive social and environmental impact on its community. The past year has reaffirmed that we all need to continue conducting our business and investing in a responsible way. The past ten years has taught us that it is essential to always look at the bigger picture. For us, this means that we look at a neighbourhood scale instead of a single building. By doing this, we can effectively redevelop urban spaces and provide a selection of amenities to better serve a variety of city users. For example, the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund has just acquired the railway yard of Porta Romana in Milan, together with Covivio and Prada, and we are very excited about exploring this neighbourhood scale development.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

Through our passion and experience, we have also developed our own sustainable vision called COIMA Roots which focuses on driving sustainable, economic, and social performance across our developments. COIMA Roots has been created in line with our belief that humans and nature should sit at the heart of all urban regeneration and development. To accomplish this, our set of values, or roots, are nature, beauty, affordability, human, happiness, ethics, service, and knowledge.

LUX: What were your principal goals when creating the Riccardo Catella Foundation?
Manfredi Catella: When we started the Riccardo Catella Foundation, our goal was to actively support the local economy and to promote the culture of sustainability and innovation in territorial development. We also wanted to make sure we were improving the quality of urban life and public green spaces through the foundation’s cultural projects. I feel that the challenge to create a place of nature, inclusion and growth in the heart of the city at the BAM park will be one of our challenges over the coming years. We are working to create a park that engages the community through a rich cultural programme inspired by sustainability but at the same time would like to create a sustainable business model that could be replicable for other parks in other cities around the world.

street art

A street art project at BAM in Milan

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has been around for almost 15 years. What has been the most significant change in sustainability during this time?
Manfredi Catella: Two main drivers: awareness and technology. When we began the foundation, sustainability and climate change was not a common topic as it is today. In recent years, we have witnessed a major shift and an increased awareness and now all players, from the public administrations to corporate to citizens, are recognising the need for urgent concrete action. Also, today, we have technological solutions that before were not available and it is fundamental to stay at the forefront of these technologies to continue to push the bar in integrating these solutions in development.

LUX: Which regeneration projects by others have particularly impressed or even inspired your philanthropic efforts?
Manfredi Catella: When we began working on the proposal for the management of BAM, we visited many parks around the world, including The High Line in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago. Then we worked on creating our own interpretation that would integrate well into the city of Milan.

LUX: Is there a major difference in approach between European, Asian and American organisations involved in philanthropic urban regeneration programmes?
Manfredi Catella: Across Europe, philanthropic engagement is an integral part of corporate social responsibility and reinforces related strategies. More and more companies of all sizes are dedicating financial resources, products, knowledge, and time to the common good. The world of philanthropy is renewing itself and dated foundations are starting to make way for a new approach to charity that incorporates social purpose and sustainability through impact investing. We believe that impact investing will become mainstream and that the positive environmental and social contribution will be integrated into traditional investments. We are dedicated and are working actively in that direction.

Find out more: coima.com

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interior space
interior space by Culture A

Culture A’s hospitality projects include London’s new wellness hotel Inhabit, which will open this summer. Image courtesy of Inhabit Hotels

Anne T. Rogers is the founder of Amsterdam-based art consultancy  Culture A, which curates collections and experiences for a range of clients from hotels to luxury retail and residential. Here, she speaks to Candice Tucker about visual storytelling, AI-generated art and how to curate a collection at home

monochrome portrait

Anne T. Rogers

1. What inspired you to create Culture A?

I’m a trained art historian and experience strategist. After years of working in curating, interior design, and retail design, I saw the opportunity to position art as an experience as well as an investment. I started Culture A to curate and produce art as something that transforms a public space. Art is an important design differentiator, particularly for clients such as hotel owners, property developers, and retail brands. We find the best art suitable for investment, visual storytelling, or pure aesthetics.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. Why do you think there’s been such a dramatic rise in experience culture?

It’s an interesting time where we’re focusing on the benefits of community, but not at the risk of the individual. Self-love, self-care, wellness: these are all hot topics right now. I think the rise of experience culture is tied to this. Generally speaking, we like to be a part of something that feels bigger than ourselves, but also have the space to find our own interpretation and act upon that feeling. Experience culture is about encouraging engagement and acting on it. For me, art is visual storytelling, and visual storytelling is a key component to experience design. Looking at art encourages discussion, individual interpretation, and personal connection. How many other consumer goods spark such freedom of expression?

abstract artwork

An artwork by Amsterdam-based artist Camille Rousseau for Inhabit London. Image courtesy of Culture A

3. Where does your curation process begin for a hospitality project?

I adopt the mindset of a guest, dig into the brand story, and ask: how can the art experience enhance the customer journey? For hospitality projects, I approach curating through the lens of experience design versus museum design. It allows me to consider diverse audiences and how to best integrate art into the context of a brand. For example, when curating the art collection for Inhabit, a new London hotel focused on wellness, I really wanted to illuminate the brand’s vision for health and wellbeing. To start, we did a deep dive into research around wellness, urban oasis, colour psychology, and nature in London. We then developed curatorial themes in relation to Inhabit’s ethos and sourced our pieces accordingly.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

4. Could you share any tips on how to curate and frame art in your home?

Build a collection slowly and one that reflects your tastes and interests. Frame it professionally to avoid damage and maintain the investment. Don’t ignore key vantage points in your home. Where does the eye instinctively go when you scan the space? Hang art in those areas and study how each work relates to the other in the context of the space. This could be done thematically, by scale, by colour, or a mix of all three.

artist scarf

An art scarf designed by designer Lisa King. Image courtesy of Culture A

5. What artistic and design trends do you foresee emerging this year?

A growing demand for slow and considered art and design. People will ask themselves, “What do I really need and what do I really enjoy?” It’s a time to re-configure and refresh the spaces already lived in. As for design presentations and sourcing, virtual viewing rooms are certainly on the rise. I recently completed a project that was largely approved because of how successful the artwork looked in our virtual reality demo. Right now, we’re also experimenting a lot with AI-generated art driven by a brand’s heritage and image archive.

6. Which contemporary artists are you currently keeping your eye on?

Landon Metz, Matt Gagnon, Sarah Crowner, Kapwani Kiwanga, Martine Gutierrez, Miya Ando, Loie Hollowell, Douglas Mandry, Tyler Mitchell, Nicolas Party, Anne Hardy, Hugo McCloud, Emily Kiacz, and Wyatt Khan. Also, anyone working with AI technology to generate art and design.

Find out more: culture-a.com

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digital art auction

Auctioneer Oliver Barker directing Sotheby’s global e-auctions. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

As part on an ongoing monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Sophie Neuendorf forecasts this year’s emerging trends and evolutions in the art world

Sophie Neuendorf

We’ve just emerged from arguably the most difficult and unpredictable year in recent history. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a synchronised and deep downturn of the global economy in the first six months of 2020. Social distancing measures and a lockdown of businesses in reaction to the health crisis resulted in falling consumer demand and economic output. Skyrocketing unemployment shook consumer confidence, and companies cut back on investments in light of declining demand, supply-chain interruptions and the uncertain future.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Amid the uncertainties and restrictions caused by the pandemic, fine art auctions plummeted in the first half of 2020. Total sales value dropped across all major regions. According to the artnet Price Database, global auction sales for fine art fell by 59% to $2.9 billion in the first half of 2020 compared to a more robust performance of $7 billion in the first six months of 2019.

art world graph

Infographic courtesy of artnet

However, despite a 29% decrease in both the number of lots offered and sold at auction year-over-year, the global sell-through rate remained steady at 65% in the first half of 2020. Major auction houses pivoted to online platforms, generating some incredible virtual transactions. In June, Sotheby’s sold Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981) for $85 million. Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I (1965) achieved $25 million.

Even though 2020 will most likely be remembered as one of the most unpredictable and difficult years in modern history, it also pushed boundaries and accelerated the art world into the digital age. With this backdrop in mind, I’m going to take the risk and make 7 art world predictions for the year 2021 – because, if anything, last year has set the stage for some ground-breaking changes to aspire to.

1. Digitalisation is here to stay.

Plato was right: necessity is indeed the mother of invention. During the COVID-19 crisis, one area that has seen tremendous growth is digitalisation, meaning everything from online customer service to remote working to supply-chain reinvention to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve the art business. As I discussed in my last column of 2020, the digitalisation of the art market is here to stay. With galleries, museums, and auction houses pivoting online and thinking outside the box in response to the pandemic, a positive trend of accessibility, efficiency, and transparency accelerated within the art world. This also goes hand in hand with a global trend of sustainability and conscious living.

Naturally, an online viewing of art can never quite replace the in-person experience, nor should it. The impact of seeing Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa online is, of course, not quite the same as admiring it in person. However, the transactional element of the art market will emerge as a strong contender to the traditional brick and mortar purchasing process, democratising the art market and opening it up to a new generation of art lovers.

2. Some art fairs will actually happen this year. But they will be a balanced, online/offline experience.

With social distancing still de rigueur this year, it will be difficult for fairs to accommodate their usual amount of art-loving and people-watching visitors. Add to that a gallery’s sky high participation costs, especially after a difficult year, and we’re looking at only very few fairs happening in 2021. My conservative prediction is that those of us able to travel can look forward to visiting ARCO Madrid (which has been postponed to July), Art Basel in Basel, Volta Basel, Frieze London, FIAC Paris, and Basel Miami, at best. The rest of us will have to enjoy the virtual editions of these fairs again this year.

Read more: COMO Group CEO Olivier Jolivet on travel trends for 2021

3. Galleries will evolve as serious contenders to art fairs and traditional auction houses.

Gallerists have always been of utmost importance as a bridge between the creative genius of an artist and the wider public of art lovers and collectors.

This year, galleries who have embraced the innovation which the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated will emerge stronger than ever. Either through online sales and viewing rooms or through collaborations with other galleries and institutions, these art dealers will rise as serious contenders to brick-and-mortar auction houses.

4. Some young artists will start bypassing galleries and begin selling directly out of their studio via social media or other websites.

It’s already a widespread practice among young artists in Asia and I foresee it crossing over to Europe and the US this year. With countless galleries, unfortunately, having been forced to close over the last year, many artists may have become increasingly accustomed to selling via social media and other websites. Especially young artists may be inclined to bypass the traditional route expected of them by the art world, and chose to build their careers independently.

pop art

Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I (1965) was sold by Sotheby’s for $25 million. Image courtesy Sotheby’s

5. Socio-economic issues will be at the forefront of major gallery and museum shows this year.

Artists have, historically, documented moments of change and upheaval. After a year that has compelled us to come to terms with a global pandemic, has seen us fight for equality during the Me Too and BLM movements, as well as confront global warming, now’s the time to examine these pivotal moments within gallery and museum shows.

The arts are known to push boundaries and open up discussions around difficult and oftentimes painful subjects in a spirit of tolerance, curiosity, and learning. I believe that galleries and institutions will harness this unique moment to exhibit artists who are capturing the zeitgeist.

contemporary art

Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981) was sold for $85 million at auction by Sotheby’s in June 2020. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

6. There will be more fine art works sold at auction this year than over the last few years.

Given the global economic and private difficulties we are currently facing, it wouldn’t be surprising if the IRS, a divorce attorney or the grim reaper force the sale of many a private collection. It’s a rather gruesome prediction, but historically the art market has been very active during a time when some micro or macro-economic situations are under stress.

Looking at Deloitte’s Art & Finance report or artnet’s Intelligence Report, fine art has gradually emerged into a serious asset class. When you compare fine art sales to the S&P, for example, more often than not it is art which is a safer alternative asset than stocks or even real estate. It is highly likely that many artworks will find speculative buyers this year, as economic changes and challenges will cause a shift in wealth.

Read more: Visual artist Clara Hastrup on her studio experiments

7. There will be a major shift in the market resulting in a new focus on quality rather than quantity.

Life was moving along as rapidly and frivolously as usual during the months before the Covid-19 pandemic forced us into seclusion. It struck me even then that the art world was moving into an unhealthy direction, where being seen at a champagne reception was more important than the quality of work on display. Where people-watching at Frieze or Basel was far more interesting than any oeuvre, and gossiping about people or prices trumped any serious deliberations of the works on view.

However, the past year has forced all of us to focus on what’s truly meaningful within our lives and on how fleeting it actually is. How do we really want to spend our time? Do we actually have to visit all of those art fairs and events? Perhaps we should seize the moment and focus on those artists and personal interactions that really enrich our lives.

This may seem like a rather wild prediction, but I’m certain that only those galleries, fairs, and institutions will survive that really concentrate on bringing added value to our lives. Perhaps we will move to a ‘new normal’ where multiple editions of the same fair or gallery are unnecessary, but are, instead, complimented by an incredible and easy to access online offering. Now is the time to excite with quality, depth, and innovation – because time is precious.

art world infographic

Infographic courtesy of artnet

8. Art will not only evolve as an asset class, but also as a financial product.

Over the past few years, art has slowly evolved as a serious contender to assets such as gold, stocks, or real estate – and it is arguably a much more stable asset. Given the high barriers to entry into the art market, specifically to the high-returns, blue chip market, I predict that there will be a derivative product developed soon, to be traded on the market similarly to other indices.

Price indices offer important insights for anyone looking to track the performance of a collection of artworks produced by a single artist or movement. At artnet, for example, we already provide an innovative price index methodology that relies on the unique strength of our flagship product, the Price Database. Our proprietary method creates indices that track the evolution of artwork prices over time, which can be tailored to focus on artworks belonging to a specific medium, movement, size, or any combination thereof, and in comparison to other indices, such as the S&P. It’s only a matter of time until the exchange traded derivative is developed. Stay tuned!

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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Man awarding medal

Keith Breslauer congratulating a wounded British veteran during The Veteran Games

Keith Breslauer is the founder and Managing Director of private equity company Patron Capital, and a trustee and donor to numerous charities including the Royal Marines Charity and the Prince’s Teaching Institute. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he speaks to LUX about building bridges between charities and the corporate world, his work with disabled veterans and how philanthropy differs in the US and the UK
man in suit

Keith Breslauer

LUX: What inspired your interest in philanthropy?
Keith Breslauer: I was brought up to believe that giving what you can is the biggest triumph in life. I took this belief and inspiration from my parents and religion into my career and to help create a platform to give what I can to those who need it, enable others to do the same and make a lasting difference.

LUX: Why did you decide to support the Royal Marines?
Keith Breslauer: I’m from the US where veterans are celebrated on both a public and personal level. However, when I moved to the UK twenty seven years ago, I was disappointed to learn that British war veterans often receive marginal public support. That is why I started ventures that manifested as fundraising for all veterans with a focus on volunteering for the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC).

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What led you to create Patron Capital?
Keith Breslauer: Lehman Brothers allowed me to come to Europe and work on distressed assets, which was a niche sector of real estate at the time. I loved being in the UK – everyone said ‘Breslauer is a New Yorker, he’ll never stay’ – but I love that on a typical Friday night (pre-Covid) I have five-plus cultures and languages at my table. So, when Lehman Brothers asked me to go back to New York, I decided to stay and took the leap to start our business with a great team of partners and the rest is history.

Keith with Royal Marines and a team from the Royal Navy on a riverbank during their re-creation of Operation Frankton, which was sponsored by Patron

LUX: What are the principle benefits of a business involving itself in charity?
Keith Breslauer: We’ve worked hard for Patron Capital to be positioned as a leader of successful commercial business while also available for charitable good – rather than just donating funds. As a team we’ve built the business to be a bridge between charities like the Royal Marines and the corporate world. We can offer them everything from business plans, employment advice, office space, secretarial services, to our business contacts and expertise.

We also utilise our business to give a voice to the extraordinary people we raise money for. In 2017, we established The Greatness Lectures, a forum to inspire, educate and create opportunities through Patron’s extensive business network. Through education, The Greatness Lectures can involve every member of the audience and ensure everyone has a part to play in the Patron value of ‘creating a positive change whenever and wherever required’.

LUX: How does philanthropy differ in the US and the UK?
Keith Breslauer: The key differences between the US and the UK lie in the construct of giving, the perception of philanthropy and the landscape of donors. In the US, it is not just tax-deductible, but also a status symbol for many and there are significant givers across the spectrum. However, while in the UK, it is a tax credit and the dynamic of it being a status symbol is far less prevalent – instead, there is much more grassroots support where individuals across the country might not give a huge amount, but they donate what they can on a regular basis.

Read more: Katrina Aleksa Ryemill on helping women in the arts

LUX: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you philanthropically?
Keith Breslauer: There are so many people, but I will always be inspired by Harvey Krueger, an early boss of mine at Lehman Brothers who is known for being the first banker to bring Israel, really, to the international capital markets. He embodied what it means to me to give as he gave a lot of his time and limited resources but remained focused on the primary objective of how to help those who needed it.

LUX: What feels more rewarding: enabling people to get involved in charity, or simply giving?
Keith Breslauer: I am a big believer in doing more than just giving. If you don’t immerse yourself in the act of charity, then you can only help on a superficial level and you will never understand the satisfaction of knowing what a difference you’ve made. To understand what a charity stands for – getting under the skin of why you’re trying to raise money – you need to endure some sort of hardship to help. You need to get know the people you are helping. At Patron, we encourage employees to take part in fundraising events that help people push their own preconceived limits. For example, in 2019, Patron sponsored Rock2Recovery’s flagship fundraising event – a sponsored climb of Ben Nevis in Scotland – and we were really proud to see an all-female team from Patron join the 140 climbers taking part. In total circa £26,000 was raised for the charity.

man on mountain summit

Keith (top) with his youngest daughter Samantha on Mont Blanc Massif, and at the summit of Pointe Percée

LUX: How has your religious background influenced your charitable work?
Keith Breslauer: My religious background is incredibly important to my approach to charity and giving – it’s the core of it really. For a start, a principle of the Jewish faith is to give away about 10% of what you earn, and I adhere to this with my time and money. Next, there is the concept of ‘tikkun olam’ which comes from Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings, and is defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. This is key to how I was raised and how I try to live my life; if you have the ability to make a difference then you should whenever and wherever you can.

LUX: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in your lifetime?
Keith Breslauer: I have learned so much throughout my life and I am still learning, but one of the biggest lessons that has stayed with me comes from the late Lord Rabbi Sacks, and that is about working hard and seeing the possible where others see the improbable. We can achieve more than we think we can if we try.

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

LUX: How has Covid-19 affected your philanthropic efforts?
Keith Breslauer: In the first few months of lockdown, it was really difficult for everyone as no one knew what the future would hold – everyone suffered. We tried to stick to a routine at Patron and this is why we took the Greatness Lectures, a forum to educate and inspire the Patron team, our friends, and partners, online. This included “Reports from the COVID-19 Frontline” with Dr Seb Vandermolen and Nurse Laura Pinches, who had both been working on adult COVID-19 wards at St Thomas’ and St Bartholomew’s hospitals respectively.

Alongside our efforts to establish The Women In Safe Homes Fund, believed to be the world’s first gender lens property impact investment fund being launched as a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes across the UK for women and their children, who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk, I’ve made a personal commitment of £1 million to demonstrate how important this fund really is. We’ve also organised a Greatness Lecture with Chloe McCardel and Jane Jutsum to share different perspectives on domestic violence and providing help and inspiration to its survivors. Chloe is an elite athlete whose love of marathon swimming helped her recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she holds the world record for the longest non-stop ocean swim – 124km. Jane Jutsum is Director of Business Development at Solace, a charity that exists to end the harm done through violence against women and girls.

All of our charities have suffered this year; the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC) alone needs £1.5 million of vital funds. We’re always looking for ways of raising money and connecting those who wish to help with any one of our 30 charities.

LUX: What has been the most surprising discovery in your philanthropic activities?
Keith Breslauer: The most surprising thing for me to discover is the significant impact we can have through the multiplier effect of dedicating both time and money, rather than just one or the other. Our initiatives focus on funding projects and events with the potential to harness a multiplier effect either driving further donations, raising awareness, or helping deserving individuals who have suffered injury, illness or disadvantage achieve personal goals and build self-esteem.

man with climbing wall

Keith with the in-house climbing wall at Patron Capital

LUX: What are your passions outside of business?
Keith Breslauer: I’m obsessed with mountain sports, especially skiing, and climbing. I even had a climbing wall fitted in our office. When I first moved to the UK, I was introduced to European mountaineering through a trip to Mont Blanc. My wife told me I was only allowed one trip, but I’ve been addicted ever since and have now climbed, notably; Old Man of Hoy, Denali and various summits and routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. I also strive to incorporate social impact into everything and anything I do. And, last but not least, my family – they are everything to me.

LUX: How have you combined those interests with charity work?
Keith Breslauer: My personal philosophy on life and in business is to lead by example. Through working with the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC), I’ve been able to share this approach undertake challenges with some extraordinary individuals that also raise awareness and funds for those in need. For example, in 2017, we sponsored The Royal Marines’ recreation of Operation Frankton, an 85-mile paddle and a 100-mile run described as the most courageous raid of World War II. This commemorated the 75th anniversary of the legendary feat which was immortalised in the 1955 film ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’ and raised money and awareness for the charity. I joined the team as we retraced the route of 10 commandos who paddled up the Gironde estuary in December 1942 to attack enemy German ships moored at the port of Bordeaux in occupied France, before making the 100-mile journey on foot to rendezvous with the French Resistance in Ruffec. Only two men survived to tell the tale – the others succumbed to hypothermia or were executed by the Germans – but the operation’s significance reportedly led Winston Churchill to say he believed the raid could have shortened the war by six months. For me, our re-enactment was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

LUX: Should we expect to hear of any upcoming projects?
Keith Breslauer: I’m looking forward to working with disabled veterans as they take on new challenges, including in the near future with a disabled veteran Mark Bower. More generally, we have a range of both adventure projects and practical projects with different charities to drive reach and penetration where charities have lost traditional channels of outreach and fundraising due to the pandemic.

Find out more: patroncapital.com

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Reading time: 9 min
women at charity
women at charity

Wendy Yu on her trip to Rwanda with Women For Women International charity

Fashion entrepreneur Wendy Yu is the founder and CEO of Yu Holdings, an international ambassador for the French Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, and a supporter of The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, BAFTA and numerous other charitable foundations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, LUX speaks to Yu about her long-standing commitment to the arts, female empowerment and children’s education

LUX: As well as supporting the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when did you first have the idea to set up a China program and why?
Wendy Yu: Having spent many years residing in London, travelling for business and working with international organisations, upon returning to Shanghai to live a few years ago, I felt an immediate sense of responsibility to my country in terms of helping to shape the creative and cultural space and provide a bridge between East and West.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This is why conversations about China with The Met were initiated. Having been fortunate enough to spend some time with Andrew Bolton, I wanted to give the design community in China the opportunity to meet him and understand more about his work at The Costume Institute. The Met has such a big following in China, but mostly because of the Met Gala, and yet there is so much more to know and learn.

I invited Andrew to China in 2017, where he and Angelica Cheung co-hosted an event to meet emerging Chinese designers. I’m passionate about providing a platform for creative and cultural exchange.

woman wearing a ballgown

Wendy Yu at The Met Gala

LUX: Have you always been passionate about costume?
Wendy Yu: I’ve always been passionate about fashion as part of the wider creative industry. Fashion and costume are so intrinsically linked to a sense of identity, emotion, stories, a moment in time and culture. It’s also provides us with an opportunity to dream, and further nowadays, share our voice as our wardrobe is beginning to say something about our values.

LUX: Is there anyone the philanthropy world who particularly inspires you?
Wendy Yu: Amal Clooney, and Queen Rania.

LUX: What exactly does the Women For Women International charity do, and how do you ensure your support is optimal?
Wendy Yu: Supporting women is one of my priorities and I have loved to support Women For Women International as they are a wonderful charity dedicated to helping women, who are living in areas of conflict and are often marginalised. I travelled with Women For Women to Rwanda a few years ago to meet some of these women, and it was one of the most enlightening and heartfelt experiences of my life. It was incredible to see how these women had benefited from Women For Women’s training program, which provides them with the necessary skills to become financially independent and support their families.

woman sitting amongst children

Wendy with some of the women helped by the Women For Women International charity in Rwanda

LUX: Do you think that the role of private philanthropy is becoming more important, with increasing limitations on government funding?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely, particularly for the creative industry and especially at the moment, where much of government funding is having to be redirected due towards the pandemic. With philanthropy comes a true personal passion and commitment, often deriving from a special relationship that goes beyond financial support and can be truly game-changing for the people and organisations on the receiving end.

Read more: Why The Alpina Gstaad is top of our travel wish list

LUX: In terms of your support for the educational prospects of China’s children, is there anything that concerns you about the path ahead for Teach for China, and what made you decide to launch an art fund?
Wendy Yu: I believe in the importance of creativity in enhancing our lives and particularly that of children. Teach For China does an incredible job at providing education and facilities for children living in rural areas of China. What I felt I could bring to the table as one of their committee members was to provide the means for them to integrate art in their program, a subject that can often get sidelined when there is a lack of funding. Together we established an art fund, which would see the funding of art teachers and the necessary materials for schools in rural areas.

woman in classroom

Wendy working in one of Teach For China’s classrooms

LUX: Do you enjoy collaborating with Teach for China?
Wendy Yu: Very much so. Working with Teach For China has given me the opportunity to meet and spend time with the children who are benefiting from the art fund, as well as integrate their artwork in some of my own projects, including a clutch for a collaboration I did with Olympia Le-Tan where we used an artwork created by one of the students.

LUX: How will COVID-19 affect what do you do?
Wendy Yu: Covid hasn’t impacted my interests and what kind of initiatives I am directing my energy to; the causes I am committed to continue to be the arts, female empowerment and children’s education. That said not being able to travel means that at the moment any activity is by default mostly China centric.

Read more: Montegrappa’s CEO Giuseppe Aquila on personalised luxury

We have just launched the Yu Prize, which is an annual award and incubator program to support promising emerging fashion designers from China. The CFDA, the BFC, Camera Moda and FHCM are so good at championing creativity and providing a support system for their rising stars; this is something that is lacking in China and yet we have a burgeoning fashion community of very talented designers. I’m excited and want to nurture this generation of designers, who compared with their predecessors, have mostly studied abroad (CSM, LCF, Parsons) and so are more globally minded. They marry this with a sense of pride of their cultural roots, and from this a new wave of creativity and confidence is born, which serves to reposition “Made in China”. Huishan Zhang, Guo Pei and Caroline Hu craft many, if not all, of their demi-couture pieces locally in China to an international standard.

fashion event

Wendy Yu (middle) with Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton

LUX: Do you often get to personally experience the difference you have made to a foundation or group?
Wendy Yu: My philanthropy has always stemmed from a personal relationship and a special connection that I have felt with a cause and therefore my involvement tends to be hands-on. It’s incredibly grounding and rewarding to be close to the people whose lives and/or careers are being transformed. Equally working with organisations that are specialised, and have the power and platform to make a difference is very inspiring. In today’s world and coming from a position of privilege, I believe in the importance of doing good as part of a wider definition of success.

LUX: Any other advice for our readers who might be considering going into the sector?
Wendy Yu: Follow your passion. Have in mind a wider sense of impact that you would like to make to a particular sector or area of interest, and then cultivate specific objectives and tangible projects that can be brought to fruition. Work closely with professional organisations that align with your vision and from whom you can learn more and gain access, however don’t be afraid also to champion people on a more personal level.

Find out more about Wendy Yu’s work: wendy-yu.com

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Reading time: 6 min
aquarium
man standing on grass

José Soares dos Santos outside the Lisbon Oceanarium

Through his Oceano Azul Foundation and game-changing Oceanário de Lisboa, Portuguese business leader and activist José Soares dos Santos is one of the foremost forces in Europe driving ocean conservation. LUX meets him to find out how he inspires politicians and his fellow philanthropists, business leaders and scientists to create a more sustainable future. By Andrew Saunders

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

We have a responsibility to look after the oceans better, because the oceans look after us. That, in a nutshell, is the reason marine biologist and lifelong ocean-conservation activist José Soares dos Santos established the Oceano Azul Foundation in Lisbon, aiming to look at sustainability “from the ocean’s point of view”, as the foundation’s motto has it.

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Whether it is the huge volumes of plastic that threaten marine life of all kinds, unsustainable fishing or the dangers of climate change-related ocean warming and acidification, dos Santos believes the marine environment is under pressure like never before. However, the crisis does not get the international attention and action that it deserves; it is time for businesses, investors, society and science to get together and spread the word.

“The fact is that the planet is a system, and if we don’t take care of the system there will be no businesses, no families and no proper life as we know it,” he says. “This is a responsibility we have and we had better do something about it.”

aquarium

The central aquarium at Lisbon Oceanarium. Image by Pedro Pina

As executive director of one of Portugal’s largest and most successful business groups – whose Jerónimo Martins food distribution and retail business, chaired by his brother Pedro Soares dos Santos, had approximately €19bn in sales in 2019, with 115,000 employees and more than 4,400 stores – he used his commercial nous and network plus his marine biology training to bring together a group of experts, academics and businesses in 2014 to set up the Oceano Azul Foundation.

Read more: OceanX founders Ray & Mark Dalio on ocean awareness

“Together with my brother, we are at the head of our family group. We are the fourth generation of a very hard-working family,” dos Santos explains.“We have capital to deploy and we can call in interesting people with very good information. We have the means, and we also believe that we have the obligation to act.”

Why focus on the ocean? Portugal does of course have a long and illustrious maritime heritage, but dos Santos is motivated by his concern that the public lacks an awareness of the vital role that oceans play in sustaining life on earth. Even though the oceans cover 70 per cent of the world’s surface, the threats they are facing are poorly understood outside the scientific community. “We are talking about the oceans because there is a lot of curiosity about them. People often ask me questions about the oceans, but I am extremely surprised how little people know about them.”

crowd at aquarium

King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Mathilde at the Oceanarium during their official visit to Portugal, 2018. Image by João Maria Catarino

Dos Santos points out that the oceans are not only home to 15 per cent of all known living species, but also produce over half of all the world’s oxygen, and, in the long term, has the capacity to absorb 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere. They also act as a massive heat sink to slow down the impact of global warming. They are an important source of food, resources and jobs – the OECD estimates that the blue economy could be worth $3 trillion by 2030, double its 2010 value. Human beings may live on land, but we are highly dependent on healthy, productive and sustainable oceans to enable us to do so.

Hence the foundation’s successful initiative, RISE UP – A Blue Call to Action. This is a joint initiative involving everyone from local fishing communities, foundations, indigenous people’s organisations and conservation groups, such as Ocean Unite and Environmental Defense Fund. Its campaign agenda was launched in May 2019 and presented to UN Secretary General António Guterres in February this year.

man making a speech

José Soares dos Santos announcing the donation of nautical equipment to the Portuguese National School Sports network by the Oceano Azul Foundation, 2019

Dos Santos was determined that the Oceano Azul Foundation would not be just another politically motivated pressure group pursuing its own narrow agenda, but instead a collaborative platform uniting marine conservationists, science, academia, business and society, as the collaborative and partnership-based RISE UP campaign, with over 400 organisations signed on in support. “We must keep science inside the foundation,” he says, “because we are not politicians and we cannot drift into politics. If we do that, we will be exactly the same as many other foundations and pressure groups. The world needs something different, not just another one of those.”

In particular, his view on the primacy of business and private investment in building a strong and self-sufficient culture of ocean stewardship marks out the Oceano Azul approach to sustainability as something out of the ordinary. “Our philosophy is not to donate money but to invest it. We believe that it is very important to take care of the planet but that we shouldn’t just give all that responsibility to the government.” He continues, “I find it very hypocritical when people say it is up to the government to change things. No! We elect the government, and we should say what we want.”

Read more: Nadezda Foundation’s Nadya Abela on running a children’s charity

Oceano Azul has also teamed up with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to develop the Blue Bio Value business programme, an accelerator scheme to help new and sustainable blue-economy business ideas to grow faster and more effectively. A vibrant blue economy provides jobs and generates returns that can in turn be used to protect the ocean environment. “We believe in investing to create jobs, create value and to create social value,” he points out.

The programme, now in its third year, helps innovative marine biology-based businesses to scale up. Applicants undergo a rigorous due-diligence process that can lead to a prize corresponding to €45,000 awarded to the best start-up or start-ups, as well as access to coaching and mentoring services and valuable business networking opportunities. So far, 28 businesses from 15 countries have benefitted from the programme, ranging from Biosolvit, a specialist in offshore clean-up materials made from discarded biomass, to sustainable aquaculture engineering start-up SEAentia.

sea puffin

The Lisbon Oceanarium studies vulnerable and endangered ocean-dwelling species, including birds such as this Atlantic puffin. Image by Pedro Pina

At the heart of dos Santos’s mission to provide better information and education about the role of the ocean in maintaining a healthy planet lies the Oceanário de Lisboa. The newly refurbished facility is the largest indoor oceanarium in Europe and one of the city’s major attractions. Home to large collections of marine life, it had 1.4 million visitors in 2019.

“The Oceanário de Lisboa is at the heart of what we do,” he explains. “People go there and the effect on them is fantastic. They can see that below the surface of the water, the ocean is a place full of life that we have a responsibility to protect.”

Read more: British artist Petroc Sesti on his nature-inspired artworks

When he is not chairing the Oceano Azul Foundation, dos Santos is heavily involved in the family business. It’s no surprise that he is a staunch advocate of the ability of business owners to move the dial on ocean sustainability. “Business owners can change this,” he says. “I am a great believer in owners because they have a longer term perspective than financial markets.” He is at pains to point out that while he fully appreciates the importance of the financial markets, he is also aware that the long-term view required for sustainability can be at odds with short-term market expectations of publicly owned companies. “You need courage to do this; it’s not always good for your short-term share price,” he says.

men in suits

José Soares dos Santos with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of an exhibition at the Oceanarium, 2020. Image by Pedro Pina

As an example, he cites his family’s decision to remove all plastic from its businesses’ supply chains. “This is a huge transformation. It will cost a lot and take many years.” A publicly owned firm would struggle not only with the complexities of executing such a decision, but also with shareholders and hedge funds that prioritise short-term profitability. Consequently, such businesses may want to do the right thing, but be unable to follow through, he says.

By contrast, successful privately held family businesses are often built on long-term investment strategies. They appreciate the win-win of sustainable investing, but in turn often lack good quality information about what to invest in. This, too, is where the Oceano Azul Foundation has a role to play. “When we talk to owners, we can see they are worried. But they often do not know what to do. This is the bridge we have to cross – I can go out there and explain the issue, but I also have to provide the instruments.”

Read more: Marine biologist Douglas McCauley on environmental philanthropy

Creating the right framework for sustainable blue economy investment is thus crucial, he says, and the Oceano Azul Foundation’s Blue Azores programme is a model for how this can be achieved. The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an Atlantic archipelago that is home to some highly diverse and under-pressure marine environments and ecosystems. In partnership with the Regional Government of the Azores and Waitt Foundation, the Foundation has run two scientific research expeditions, the result of which was the February 2019 signing of a memorandum of understanding for both the conservation of those environments and the sustainable development of resources and fisheries within the area.

As a result of the memorandum, 15 per cent of the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone will be designated as marine fully protected areas, with comprehensive plans for the sustainable development of resources and fisheries within the zone – in line with the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals, among others – to follow.

building in the sea

The Oceanarium building, designed by Peter Chermayeff in 1998. Image by Pedro Pina

Blue Azores is a great example of what can be achieved through a marriage of government, society and business investment, says dos Santos. “The Azores government has an outstanding leader who appreciates the need to take political decisions that will go beyond his term of office. It makes the Azores a very good place to invest, because there are programmes there that you can measure, and you can see making a difference. They will be good for the fishing industry, but also for the preservation of the oceans.”

It’s precisely that kind of win-win that dos Santos believes is key to building a stronger, better understood and more resilient approach to marine conservation and development. It’s a big job, but he has faith that it can be done – and more quickly than you might expect. “I am a great believer in humankind – given the right circumstances, we are capable of achieving extraordinary things and really making a difference to the planet.”

Lisbon Oceanarium

Opened in 1998 and designed by architect Peter Chermayeff, who also conceived the design for the Osaka Oceanarium, the spectacular Oceanário de Lisboa is home to some 16,000 marine organisms representing 450 species from across the globe. The attraction’s centrepiece is a vast tank containing five million litres of sea water, in which approximately 100 species – including sharks, rays and a giant sunfish – swim in near-ocean conditions.

The Oceanario is also the base for dedicated teams of experts in education and ocean conservation, including more than 30 highly qualified marine biologists. Its educational outreach programmes reach more than 100,000 school children every year.

Find out more: oceanoazulfoundation.org

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
river in forest
river in forest

Drone footage of Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Image by FG Trade

Can the power of the financial markets be harnessed to address environmental issues such as ocean conservation? LUX talks to Jörg Eigendorf, Head of Corporate Communications, Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Deutsche Bank, about the unique role banks can play to incentivise sustainable investment and consumption
man in suit

Jörg Eigendorf. Image by Mario Andreya / Deutsche Bank AG

LUX: Sustainability can be an empty word in business. How can you make it meaningful?
Jörg Eigendorf: Put simply, as a company we need to demonstrate that we are willing to integrate it in all parts of our value chain. This starts with our own operations. At Deutsche Bank we made a pledge in 2007 to become carbon-neutral and achieved that goal in 2012, but we have worked continually since then to cut our energy consumption – as well as our usage of water, paper and other resources – and this year we challenged ourselves to get all the electricity we use from renewable sources by 2025. But this is only the minor part: banks also have an additional responsibility, in that we facilitate other forms of business, which can themselves have a positive or negative impact on the world. This is where environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles and practices come into play.

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LUX: ESG investing is in fashion right now. What makes it more than financial jargon?
Jörg Eigendorf: It is already much more than a new piece of financial jargon. It’s a concept that has gone from niche to mainstream in recent years. Investors increasingly want to ensure their money is used to support businesses that care about sustainability. ESG gives them a way to compare and contrast investments based on factors that go beyond financial performance – without sacrificing it. So it really has the potential to transform the whole economic system in a positive way. This is why we feel confident that we will be able to increase our volume of sustainable financing plus our portfolio of ESG investments under management to over €200bn by 2025 – to play our part in contributing to this momentum.

LUX: Can ESG really incentivise better behaviour in the private sector?
Jörg Eigendorf: I’ll give you a practical example: in Singapore, we’ve just provided a $25m ‘sustainability-linked’ loan facility to an agricultural company. If the company meets a set of agreed sustainability targets over the three-year term of the loan (and if these are verified by an external auditor), the interest rate payable on the loan will be lower; otherwise it will be higher. This kind of innovation sets a great example and shows how we can help companies incentivise themselves to do better. Of course, progress is often relative, and in some industries all we can do is try to make things better than they were before, consistently. We can’t stop fossil-fuel usage overnight because we don’t have the means to compensate for this yet. But we need to drive and facilitate change. In the almost five years I’ve been with Deutsche Bank, I’ve realised how important banks are to this transformation process, and that we have a big lever with which to make a real difference.

Read more: Marine biologist Douglas McCauley on environmental philanthropy

LUX: What are the main challenges involved in building sustainability into financial products and services?
Jörg Eigendorf: The biggest is probably asset origination – that is, the process of identifying and acquiring investments that offer ESG benefits alongside traditional benefits such as capital growth. It starts with the question: what is sustainable? This is why we have just published our sustainable finance framework which is closely aligned with the new EU taxonomy on financial services. We need this transparency to give our businesses, as well as investors, some certainty in times when demand for ESG products from both private individuals and institutions is outstripping supply. Having said this, it is still difficult to verify that a particular asset meets particular ESG criteria. There is not enough data, there is not enough clarity and there is not enough consistency in the way that ESG criteria are defined and compared. That’s why we’re helping to develop industry-wide ESG standards – for example, working within various initiatives to develop a framework for comparing and contrasting ESG products.

LUX: What ESG issues do you feel passionate about personally?
Jörg Eigendorf: I feel very strongly about the overconsumption of natural resources, and especially how we treat animals. We are eating up this planet and we should stop it. Every German consumes around 61kg of meat a year on average, and the suffering associated with this is unbelievable. Pigs have much DNA in common with humans. They feel emotions just as we do. So from my point of view it cannot be right that we treat them as a commodity. Meat production is also making a significant contribution to climate change – for example, as rainforests in Latin America are razed to produce grazing land for beef cattle. I also care a lot about ocean conservation, marine ecosystems are vital for the world and the climate, so we cannot risk their collapse. These are matters of life and death for humanity as a whole.

LUX: What’s the future for ESG?
Jörg Eigendorf: It is already mainstream and will become more important every day. The Covid-19 crisis, while terrible in many ways, has also made us aware of how things need to be different. We’ve suddenly become more aware of our environment. We’ve realised that we don’t have to be on the run all day long, travelling left and right, and that in many cases a video conference is enough. I am convinced that this crisis will lead to a change in behaviour and creative solutions. And I think we will be less likely to go back to the old, more inefficient world as a result. At the same time, greater awareness of ESG investing will lead to a virtuous circle in which economic growth is coupled with environmental protection – provided we in the financial sector play our part in leading the development of ESG standards and solutions. We welcome the idea of our clients and investors pushing us to do better: there must be a mutual understanding to drive change.

Find out more: deutschewealth.com/esg

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue.

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Reading time: 5 min
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cityscape

Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan with landmark Baiterek tower. Image by cosmopol.

Dynamic leadership and entrepreneurial thinking are required to help the global economy recover. We speak to seven leaders in the Kazakhstan chapter of one of the world’s most respected business organisations about mutual support among entrepreneurs, and their country being a touchpoint between east and west. Curated by Gauhar Kapparova
portrait of a woman

LUX’s Editor-at-Large Gauhar Kapparova

A first-time business visit to Kazakhstan is likely to end up with two overarching impressions. Firstly, of the sheer size of the country. The distance from the biggest city, Almaty, to the centres of oil production on the Caspian sea is an astonishing 3,000 kilometres. Even the short hop from Almaty to the shiny new(-ish) capital Nur-Sultan is an hour and a half on a plane.

The second impression is likely to be one of the openness and dynamism of a new entrepreneurial community. Kazakhstan often speaks of itself as a key country between east and west, with China to the east and Russia and the Caspian sea border of Europe to the west. It is also focussing on moving beyond its oil and gas-based 20th-century economy, with the majority of growth coming from other sectors.

To this end, the country teems with spirited, can-do entrepreneurs, unfazed by the distances they have to travel to get to the world’s financial centres and proud of their country’s potential. A new generation of largely western-educated business people add to the cosmopolitan feel.

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At the heart of this enterprising business community is the Kazakh chapter of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), a global members group for chief executives and owners of significant businesses. Entry is by invitation only and open to those who own or run substantial businesses. Benefits are notable: an instant network of the highest level of contacts in your country and around the world, gatherings, conventions and seminars, and a highly sophisticated support network.

True to the country’s buccaneering business spirit, the Kazakh division of the YPO is known as one of the world’s most dynamic. There is no better insight into the opportunities in the central Asian country or into the minds of its prominent business leaders than from the YPO Kazakhstan chapter leaders we interview here.

ALINA ALDAMBERGEN

Chair of the Management Board, member of the Board of Directors of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange

Aldambergen’s career in the finance industry began in 1997 as an analyst and manager at ABN AMRO bank in Kazakhstan, then as a senior rating advisor in the global finance markets for the same bank in London before returning to Kazakhstan to chair the bank’s management board. After a series of senior posts at various financial institutions, she moved to the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange in 2016.

woman in orange top

Alina Aldambergen. Image by Sergey Belousov.

LUX: Tell us about yourself and your experience. What distinguishes you from other YPO members?
Alina Aldambergen: I’ve been working at the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange since February 2016. In the 17 years since I was first appointed as chairperson of ABN AMRO Pension Funds Asset Management Company in Kazakhstan back in 2003, I have held a number of different management positions at private and state-owned companies.

My key expertise is in being a senior manager. Unlike other YPO members, I’ve never been an owner of a company. It is possible, of course, that one day I might decide to set up my own company, but I haven’t come to that decision yet.

I like to manage large-scale companies. It is important for me that I work for institutions that make an impact, which is why during the past ten years I have worked for companies in Kazakhstan that are owned by the state.

Read more: Deutsche Bank’s Claudio de Sanctis on investing in the ocean

LUX: How did you became the manager you wanted to be? How did you train and did you have any formal business education?
Alina Aldambergen: I happened to develop my career when the country was changing from the Soviet planned economy to a market economy. This was a significant transformation for the whole country, economically and mentally.

The country’s president was a visionary, he knew that this would require a new mindset and people with new sets of skills. That’s why the government set up a scholarship programme to send students to study abroad. I was awarded one of these scholarships and studied for an MBA at the Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester, one of the top 25 business schools in the world at that time. I studied corporate finance and accounting, essential for doing business and setting up the financial system in Kazakhstan. Another major influence on my career has been working for the country’s first international bank.

Even though now I would think that doing an MBA straight from undergraduate school is a bit too soon, in my case it gave me all the essential skills to do business and manage business in Kazakhstan. I am still using all the concepts that I studied at business school in my everyday life.

Of course, I took various courses in different subjects later on, but still, the fundamentals are what keep you going. I am a strong advocate of keeping up your business education throughout one’s lifetime.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Alina Aldambergen: I am motivated by excellence. However, that has to be adjusted for the environment that you are working in. At any job I have always tried to come up with the best business model, get support from the stakeholders, and follow it through. I will leave a company if my values do not coincide with those of the company.

I am a strong believer in not wasting time – why do so if you could be doing something more valuable and interesting elsewhere? It is important for me to bring worth to a company, its employees and shareholders, and to society. I want to see the results of my work make an impact.

office environment

Courtesy KASE

LUX: Why did you decide to become member of the YPO? Why it is important for you?
Alina Aldambergen: I joined YPO in Kazakhstan in 2018. For me, it was an exclusive members club of business people – true, self-made achievers. To become a member was prestigious for me. Another point is that YPO is an international organisation, so in that regard I considered it as another step forward for myself. I also recognised that it is an influential organisation that can make an impact on various issues concerning society.

LUX: What else does YPO bring to you?
Alina Aldambergen: I think I discovered even more value once I had become a YPO member. There is a wealth of knowledge, significant networking opportunities and an exchange of opinions that you can draw on.

I like the YPO concept of oneself, family and business all together. I think it is important that YPO encourages this amongst its members. Your spouse or child can become a member of the organisation and it provides access to the same education as you can get elsewhere. It really enables generations of business people to grow.

I also like the forum meetings. I found that they are a place where you can receive and share professional advice with your peers on dealing with different situations. I think this is the most valuable experience of the YPO membership.

ARMANZHAN BAITASSOV
Chairman of the Tan Media Group and publisher of Forbes Kazakhstan magazine

Baitassov is a Kazakhstan media manager, professional TV journalist and businessman. He has founded multiple media outlets, including his first TV channel, Channel 31, in 1992 the Megapolis newspaper in 2000, the Business FM radio station in 2018, and in 1994 the Radio 31 radio station. In 2017 he was elected chairman of the board of the Kazakhstan Media Alliance.

business man

Armanzhan Baitassov. Image by Andrey Lunin

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I was 19 years old when I decided to go into business. The first time we thought about business was in the late 1980s, when it became possible to engage in private entrepreneurial activity.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Armanzhan Baitassov: We were inspired by the guys who were able to earn a lot of money back then in Soviet roubles, guys as young as us who were also searching for opportunities to make money.

LUX: What were your first steps? Did you have any formal business education?
Armanzhan Baitassov: We started in advertising, reselling the advertising slots in newspapers. At that time, there were no textbooks about business, so we learned everything along the way.

Read more: Sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld on the power of public art

LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism at Kazakh State University and immediately went into the media industry, where I still work. Of course, in the early 90s there were problems with funding, there was not enough equipment or it was incredibly expensive, and legislation in Kazakhstan was not fully regulated. But we had enough advertising in the first year and big contracts with Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Armanzhan Baitassov: At first, the big motivation for us was creative work. We were young, we worked day and night to make our media more and more popular. Now, of course, we are more mature, but the main motivation remains to do something new to make our world better.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Armanzhan Baitassov: There is the powerful influence of the state on the economy. It hinders entrepreneurship and corruption has penetrated all levels of power and the economy. Doing business in Kazakhstan can be simply unsafe, but there are also development institutions that are helping small and medium-sized businesses thrive. All systems work well, but look carefully at your segment, especially if it contains any state-owned companies and corporations.

forbes building

The Forbes building in Almaty, Kazakhstan

LUX: What’s the secret of success in business?
Armanzhan Baitassov: For me it’s that I am interested in doing business, in watching companies develop and doing it myself, and not just being a shareholder and observing. When you are immersed, then you’ll succeed. And what probably helps is my belief that everything will get better every year.

LUX: What are your plans for the future?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The pandemic has changed all my plans for 2020 but I really want to develop media abroad in Russia, Uzbekistan and Georgia.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Armanzhan Baitassov: Of course, there are people I admire such as Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin. There are also people here who inspire me, such as Vyacheslav Kim and Mikhail Lomtadze at Kaspi Bank. But today my business heroes are the young entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan.

LUX: The media business is going through unique challenges now. What do you think these are and where do opportunities lie?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The main thing is a sharp drop in income from advertising. Many media companies have begun to work remotely from home, which is a great opportunity because of the high office costs. There may also be greater digitalisation – print newspapers are living their last days.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I learned about YPO in 2010 from Nurlan Kapparov. A year or so later we went with him to the USA, where we were invited to an event held by the YPO chapter in Washington DC.

LUX: Emotional support in business and other matters seems to be an important part of being a YPO member – is that correct?
Armanzhan Baitassov: Yes. In Kazakhstan, most entrepreneurs encounter some difficulties, maybe even injustice, and we can openly discuss these within the chapter. It is an incredible support.

LUX: How does YPO support your business?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The biggest support that I get is when we hold events at Tan Media Group, almost all members are happy to come. I am especially pleased that they support the youth forum and are happy to speak to young entrepreneurs.

LUX: What does running the Kazakhstan YPO chapter mean to you?
Armanzhan Baitassov: It has become very influential. We want as many members as possible, but getting in is difficult. We have a committee that reviews all applications and only then sends them for consideration to the YPO members. We all feel a great responsibility, because each YPO member is one of our team.

AIGUL DJAILAUBEKOVA
Partner at InnoVision Management Consultancy

Djailaubekova began her career in banking 1996 in Amsterdam at MeesPierson and then ING Bank. In 2004, she returned to Kazakhstan to continue working for ING. Since 2007, her work in banking has included senior management roles at Citibank and HSBC in Kazakhstan and at large regional banks. At InnoVision she focuses on management consultancy, financial services and education.

businesswoman

Aigul Djailaubekova

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I started my career about 25 years ago. Prior to then, being an ambitious straight-As student, I was set on an academic career but after a short teaching tenure, I decided to explore new opportunities in commercial and international business.

LUX: What were your first steps? Did you have any formal business education or training? Which companies did you work for?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I won a British Council scholarship to study at Lancaster University in the UK. After graduation, I landed a job in the Trade & Commodity Finance department of the Dutch bank MeesPierson in Amsterdam. I moved to ING Bank N.V., where for several years I covered financial institutions in various countries as a senior regional manager. Then I joined ING’s office in Kazakhstan as an expatriate manager.

LUX: What have you learned in your business life in recent years?
Aigul Djailaubekova: Over the past decade, I have been deputy chairman of the management board at Citibank and HSBC in Kazakhstan and in a few large local banks. Those were vastly different experiences for me in terms of their corporate cultures. All the successes and disappointments made me a stronger and perceptive manager as well as a more resilient and, hopefully, wiser person.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Aigul Djailaubekova: A few years ago I started thinking about setting up my own bank with a team of like-minded investors and banking professionals. In view of the multimillion investment required, it’s ambitious but most successful businesses at their early stages dare to dream big.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Aigul Djailaubekova: It is important that foreign investors have a strong local partner who will be on the same page in terms of their business vision to help them navigate through the local bureaucracy.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Aigul Djailaubekova: My main inspiration in life is my family. I’ve always been driven by a desire to do something meaningful, to contribute to financial prosperity of our family, to be a good example for my children and to be a source of pride for my parents. Thanks to them and my husband, I have never had to face the choice of being a mother and wife or a being a banking executive.

man and woman

Aigul Djailaubekova with her husband

LUX: What advice would you give anyone starting out in business?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I would say three things. Firstly, dream big and dare to have it all. One might not achieve each and every goal along the way, but it’s worth trying. Secondly, dare to follow your dreams, especially when you’re young. And thirdly, when you feel that the current trajectory is no longer satisfying, or that there are other opportunities opening up, dare to change to a new path.

LUX: How did you first hear about YPO?
Aigul Djailaubekova:Several years ago from some of my friends and business acquaintances. The Kazakhstan chapter was founded by Nurlan Kapparov, a highly respected businessman and visionary. It was very flattering when two of the long-standing members suggested I join, which I did more than five years ago. I was the first female YPO member in Kazakhstan.

LUX: Has being a woman member made a difference to the local chapter?
Aigul Djailaubekova: One of my missions was to break the image of our chapter as a closed, all male club. Later, I heard that initially some members had been cautious about a woman joining the chapter, but knowing several members before I joined and the fresh perspective and insights I brought helped me to gain the trust of other members.

LUX: How does YPO Kazakhstan benefit wider society?
Aigul Djailaubekova: Kazakhstan’s chapter has evolved from an elite business club to an organisation that strives to make differences in society. Some initiatives between the government and local businesses were introduced at the instigation of YPO. The charity balls supporting good causes are regular events now. And there are charity projects, such as the Ana Yui (Mother’s House) founded by one our members, which has become a nationwide movement saving thousands of babies from being sent to orphanages.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Aigul Djailaubekova: For me, YPO brings great value through business advices and insights and as a platform for personal development through the forums, training and special events. I have become good friends with most YPO members and their families, socialising outside official chapter events. When making a radical career shift, I took comfort from the forum and some closer friends at YPO to whom I could turn for advice.

SIDDIQUE KHAN
Founder and CEO of Globalink Logistics Ltd

Khan has worked in transportation since 1990. He established Globalink Logistics in 1994. In 2011 he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce. As well as chairing multiple committees relating to his sector, he also advises Kazakhstan’s government on the development of transportation and has a particular expertise in the Belt & Road Initiative.

businessman

Siddique Khan

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Siddique Khan: I started part-time work while I was studying to gain practical experience and to earn some extra money. It turned out to be one of the best opportunities of my life. I was able to learn how small businesses work, and the hands-on experience helped me turn my visions into practical business ideas.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business, and how and why did they inspire you?
Siddique Khan: I was always fascinated with the ancient Silk Road and became particularly aware of it when I started a job in transportation and logistics in 1990 while supervising the distribution of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. I saw the Silk Road’s heritage everywhere. In 1994, following the collapse of the USSR three years earlier, I set up a new business in Almaty to build a world-class transportation and logistics business that would eventually revive the ancient Silk Road.

Read more: Gaggenau launches initiative to support innovative artisans

LUX: How did you go about setting up this business venture?
Siddique Khan: Fundraising for a start-up to revive the Silk Road was anything but easy. After months of struggle, I managed to raise the seed capital, helping me launch Globalink Logistics on a shoestring budget. Choosing Almaty as a base was not a popular decision in those days, as most foreign investors were entering the former USSR market through Russia. Looking back, it was the right decision. It has helped Globalink gain recognition as the first international logistics company in Kazakhstan. Today, it has operations in nine locations in this country, more than 32 service centres in the former USSR and with representation in 55 countries.

LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Siddique Khan: Companies have to re-invent themselves frequently, adapt to ever-changing market conditions, manage risk effectively, develop a competent workforce and invest in new technologies to be able to compete on a global stage. We must learn to overcome the uncertainty of the future and continuously educate ourselves to be able to stay ahead.

industrial container

One of Siddique Khan’s company’s containers on the move

LUX: What motivated you then, and what motivates you now?
Siddique Khan: Giving financial success a purpose is still the most incredible motivation for me and gives me an enormous satisfaction in my work. My real thrill in life is not accumulating wealth, but to seek ways to use financial resources to create life-changing opportunities for others.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Siddique Khan: Kazakhstan is a typical frontier market, offering high risk and higher reward. Overall, it and the Central Asian Republics are resource-rich economies with limited service sectors and infrastructures. There are viable business opportunities if one can cope with the numerous challenges of these emerging markets.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Siddique Khan: It is essential to learn and appreciate the cultural differences when you are doing business in this region.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation. Is this true?
Siddique Khan: YPO is a unique group of exceptional executives that provides a network with a common aim: to become better leaders through lifelong learning. Every member seeks the knowledge and principles of success not only for their businesses but also for their families, friends and, most importantly, for themselves.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Siddique Khan:  Much of the YPO member experience comes from the local chapter, where you meet other business executives in your area. Although the organisation attracts high-achievers who are very competitive, the chapter also offers a sense of openness. Chapter life is full of action, ranging from family retreats and business events to executive education, counselling, healthcare and much more.

Depending on the size of the chapter, there are several forums. A forum is a group of about eight to ten people who meet frequently to discuss business and personal issues in a judgment-free and confidential environment. Forums become the sounding board for topics that you wouldn’t like to discuss anywhere else. I can confidently say that my forum has become my family. We trust and support each other – no matter what.

The professional, educational, spiritual and networking support that I got from the organisation helped me not only to transform myself but my business and family life as well. Thanks to YPO, I have become a better executive, spouse, father and friend.

RAMIL MUKHORYAPOV
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chocofamily Holding

After early enterprises in Moscow, Mukhoryapov returned to Kazakhstan in 2011 to work in e-commerce, founding Chocolife.me, the country’s first online marketplace. This has since expanded to become Chocofamily Holding, Kazakhstan’s leading internet company with eight brands covering services such as online payments, health, travel and food delivery.

man in polo neck

Ramil Mukhoryapov

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I was 19 years old when I started my first business. It was a club for parties for students. My first idea was for a comfortable and fun student life.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I was inspired by a few Russian and international entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Oleg Tinkov, Sergey Galitsky and Evgeny Chichvarkin. I was inspired by their energy and their desire to change the world.

LUX: What were your first steps – which companies did you work for, how did you train and did you do formal business education?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I studied at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow. I used to read interviews with various entrepreneurs in the business newspaper Vedomosti, in which they described all sorts of business situations and how they dealt with them. Reading newspapers was my main training. I had no formal business education, just my basic finance education at the university.

LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I loved reading the biographies of top entrepreneurs such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, Steve Jobs, John Rockefeller, Feodor Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, and Richard and Maurice McDonald. I was inspired by their lives and their decision making.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: At first I was motivated by money and the photos I saw in magazines that depicted businessmen like happy guys with beautiful lives. Now, my main motivation is to change the world. I would like to change the relationships between companies and employees, to change the service in our country and to create new possibilities in economics. I think that business people are sort of engineers of the world.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I don’t think that Kazakhstan offers any particularly unique challenges in business but it does have great potential for entrepreneurs, because of the very low levels of competition.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: First of all, welcome to our country! There are many great possibilities to start a business here. We are growing very fast, have a stable economy and political regime. Also, we have potential in retail, e-commerce and so on.

LUX: What is the secret of success in business and what keeps you going?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I think that it depends on two things. Firstly, you should work a lot and very hard. And secondly, ambition. If you are not satisfied with the results, they have to push you to go further. It’s important not to say “enough” – that’s a very dangerous word in business.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: Our plan is to build the biggest e-commerce company in the region and to become the first tech company from Kazakhstan to be known worldwide. To keep pace with Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and others – that’s our goal and I believe that everything is possible.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: My business hero now is Elon Musk. He is a person who makes crazy things. He does not just dream about something, he does it. He inspires me to think the same way. We shouldn’t build barriers in our minds.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: The first time was when I was a student. I read a book by Artyom Tarasov, one of the first Russian millionaires and the first YPO member from Russia. That was about 19 years ago and I knew then that I wanted to join YPO.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: YPO is a unique business organisation. It consists of the best entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan and enables you to communicate with others from different countries.

LUX: How does YPO support your business?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I have two examples. First, two of the YPO members in our chapter became investors in my company: Timur Turlov and Aidyn Rakhimbayev. Second, when I need to speak with the managers of the big Russian e-commerce companies, I can get their contacts through YPO Connect and they answer quickly.

LUX: How often are chapter meetings held?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: Formal meetings happen on average 10 times a year. They take priority in my schedule. I appreciate the ideas and advice I get from them – they are like a personal board of directors.

ELDAR SARSENOV
Chairman of the Management Board of JSC Nurbank

Before his banking career, Sarsenov led the marketing at TAG Heuer in the US and worked his way up to being deputy director of sales and marketing at Helios LLP, the Kazakhstan petrol station company. He was the managing director of JSC Nurbank for three years, during which he managed the credit card department, IT and marketing, before he became the bank’s chairman in 2015.

businessman

Eldar Sarsenov. Image by Valery Ayapov

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Eldar Sarsenov: I started thinking of myself as some kind of business person when I was maybe six or seven years old. At the time, I was in the US living near tennis courts where I worked as a ball boy. It was then that I understood the value of being paid for your services.

LUX: Your family was prominent in business already – you took a very international route when starting your career. Why?
Eldar Sarsenov:My career started early, helping out in my family’s business when I was still in school. When in college, I did some internships and later on I was working in a few businesses in Kazakhstan, so my career started locally. My first international work was in New Jersey, at TAG Heuer, as part of my MBA.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business?
Eldar Sarsenov: I was inspired first by my parents’ enterprise in the early 1990s. When I was in college, a few professors who were also successful business people also influenced me.

Read more: Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu on benefits of the blue economy

LUX: What business education do you have?
Eldar Sarsenov: My bachelor degree in science and business administration was from Suffolk University in Boston, and my MBA is from Northeastern University. Formal education helped my decision making and my ability to assess business practices in all sorts of situations.

LUX: What motivates you now?
Eldar Sarsenov: That’s easy. I am motivated by problem solving, by overcoming crises. I look at the person I was prior to certain events and can see how they transformed and improved me.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Eldar Sarsenov: It’s a great place to conduct business, but one of the biggest challenges is its population size. It is a little below 20 million and no matter how efficient or effective you are, technologically and otherwise, at some point you will hit the ceiling of what market you can get.

yellow flag

The flag of Nurbank, of which Eldar Sarsenov is chairman

LUX: What’s the secret of success in business?
Eldar Sarsenov: There’s no big secret. Work hard, be kind to people, be a good person, and stay motivated. That’s harder than it sounds. You’ll be motivated at first but, later, obstacles might slow you down. The trick is to keep moving.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Eldar Sarsenov: Going international is in the plan for me. As a company, you need to cover as many countries as you can. It is healthy and financially sound.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Eldar Sarsenov: The ones who surround me, such as those who survived the break-up of the Soviet Union and prospered for the benefit of the country. Also my YPO friends, who are people of high ethical standards and great business acumen.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Eldar Sarsenov: I first heard about it through friends and business acquaintances. My friend and mentor Armanzhan Baitassov, who is a YPO member of some stature, suggested I join.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined?
Eldar Sarsenov: I thought it was something along the lines of a fraternity of some sort. But when I saw a meeting, which was informal, I was impressed by the comradeship.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Eldar Sarsenov: It’s put into perspective what I am today as a business person. It has shown me how my strengths could be furthered, and how my weaknesses can be minimised.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation, especially in its forums.
Eldar Sarsenov: Yes, the forums are what make YPO so sought after. Chapters consist of five to eight people. They are designed to be part of the YPO experience, where people can meet regularly within their own groups and discuss problems with work, family, or personal development.

LUX: Does YPO help with international contacts also?
Eldar Sarsenov: International contacts are what YPO bring to the table once you become a member. It provides a platform called YPO Connect that enables you to connect with YPO people round the world. I have helped members from Latin America, Europe and Australia who were interested in financial services in Kazakhstan.

LUX: What does being a YPO chapter member involve and what do you need to do?
Eldar Sarsenov: You get from YPO what you invest. If you make time, reach out to people, follow guidelines at meetings and participate in forums, then YPO gives back a lot. Since I joined in 2019 I have tried to be at every event and reach out to every member. YPO has been great for me. I look forward to meeting new people after the pandemic, and I urge everyone to consider joining this great organisation.

TIMUR TURLOV
Founder and owner of Freedom Holding Corp.

Turlov is an entrepreneur and financial expert who established Freedom Finance in 2008. Becoming part of Freedom Holding Corp. in 2015, the company is a leading retail brokerage and investment bank in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Turlov is a specialist in the US stock market and regularly comments, reports and lectures on financial and economic matters in business publications.

businessman

Timur Turlov, CEO of the Freedom Holding Corp.

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Timur Turlov: I was hungry to earn money when I was at least 13. At 15 or 16 I had my first more or less serious job (as a junior media analyst) with an ‘adult’ salary.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Timur Turlov: I am not sure that I really can name any. I started my own business not because of my ambitions, but because my employer closed its investments arm.

LUX: What were your first steps? Which companies did you work for, how did you train and did you do any formal business education?
Timur Turlov: I have no formal business education. I started my career in the stock market industry in Moscow at a small proprietary trading firm founded by American who was a former Soviet Union citizen. Then I switched to a retail brokerage firm that was part of a medium-sized commercial bank, and became the youngest TOM manager by my third year. Then the investment arm closed after the 2008–09 crisis.

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LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Timur Turlov: I always was very practical. I learned a lot from my colleagues and partners, from googling and reading the necessary information to solve specific tasks.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Timur Turlov: We live in a world where the winner takes it all and you need to be the best in the industry just to survive.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Timur Turlov: The main challenge is being almost alone in your industry. A weak competitive landscape can be a problem when you eat your bread alone. And that’s an opportunity as well, of course.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Timur Turlov: Kazakhstan is a country of open doors. It’s very easy to get here and you will be warmly welcomed, but you have to manage expectations extremely carefully.

LUX: What is the secret of success in business and what keeps you going?
Timur Turlov: My ability to build relationships, to sense the direction the wind is blowing in and to create products that are in demand. And, of course, luck.

LUX: What are your plans and business dreams?
Timur Turlov: We need to expand more actively into the EU and from there, globally. Competition in my industry is already global and we need to grow to be competitive enough tomorrow, to be attractive enough to become a target for acquisition, or to acquire our competitors worldwide.

office reception

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Timur Turlov: My team, my competitors… No stars.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO and from whom?
Timur Turlov: From my friend and client, Marat Shotbaev, three or four years ago.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined and what made you want to join?
Timur Turlov: I knew it to be a club of successful people from the business elite in our country.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation. Is this true, and if so, how and why?
Timur Turlov: The spread across medium and large enterprises in Kazakhstan seems to be wider than usually found elsewhere in the world. So here, YPO is a club for large businesses.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Timur Turlov: Through the unique experience of the forum meetings, which unfortunately have been less frequent over the past year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

LUX: How does being a YPO member support your business?
Timur Turlov: Business is always about the development of relationships, and YPO helps to develop it much further.

LUX: Does YPO membership help you with international contacts as well?
Timur Turlov: I have never tried to use the international power of YPO.

LUX: What does being a YPO chapter member involve? How frequently do you have formal meetings, and international meetings?
Timur Turlov: Unfortunately, I have never participated in any of the international meetings, but this is only my second year of membership and international travel has been restricted, of course, for most of 2020.

Find out more: ypo.org

This article features in the Autumn Issue, which will be published later this month.

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house in the water
house in the water

The Lisbon Oceanarium, Europe’s largest informational and educational space on the oceans, is operated by a foundation launched by Portugal’s Dos Santos family. Image by Paulo Maxim

Claudio de Sanctis, the new Global Head of Wealth Management at Deutsche Bank, has been passionate about the oceans since he was young. He now sees the blue economy – the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth – as a major and necessary target for investments. LUX speaks with him to discover why

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

man in suit

Claudio de Sanctis

LUX: How did your interest in ocean conservation arise?
Claudio de Sanctis: It’s something that goes back to my childhood. I was brought up in Italy and school summers there are very long. I spent a good portion of that time in the water snorkelling and skin diving in the Mediterranean and I developed an incredibly strong connection to the sea and the life in it. You carry forward that passion for animals and life in the sea; and then, if you are 47 as I am now and you are still spending your holidays diving in the sea with your family, you witness first-hand the changes that have gone on. You have this passion, you have witnessed this crisis, and there is a part of you that says something needs to be done.

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LUX: You have personally noticed the environmental changes in the sea?
Claudio de Sanctis: One hundred per cent. If you don’t dive or spend time underwater, the ocean may seem like a beautiful, big, blue expanse and it’s difficult to perceive how it’s changing; it looks as beautiful now as it did 50 years ago. But if you do actually spend time underwater, you then notice that the Mediterranean, for example, has changed dramatically. In the past 40 years, plastic has replaced fish. There were previously a lot of fish, and now there are far fewer and plastic is popping up more and more so it’s now almost impossible to get underwater without seeing a large amount. Also, tropical fish are being seen in Greece, for example, which is a concern as it suggests a very significant change in temperature. If you go to the tropics, the situation is very similar. I have less than 20 years’ experience diving in the tropics, but even in that time, the situation has deteriorated and reefs have disappeared.

LUX: And this is what inspired your focus on the blue economy, which includes ocean conservation and much more besides.
Claudio de Sanctis: That’s correct. There are two fundamental beliefs informing this. One is that institutions such as Deutsche Bank have a fantastic history, if you realise that, for example, we have invested in young artists for the past 40 years for no other reason than social responsibility. While we are a business for profit, doing things because they are relevant and important for the societies we operate in, and because it’s right to be doing them, is important. In that context, we try to do things that are relevant to our clients. I meet clients on a daily basis and more often than not, the discussion will turn to conservation and particularly ocean conservation, and the strongest message I get is one of interest and one of alarm. “How can I help?”, they ask. And that’s how the blue economy comes into play because I believe that the best way to protect the sea is actually to explain to everybody the extraordinary sustainable, long-term economic value it has. There is a lot we need to explain to the world, such as the fact that we breathe because of the ocean; if we damage the ocean beyond a certain point, we won’t be able to breathe air any more. This is very much where education comes into play. And if you understand how the ocean can produce long-term economic development for low-income, underdeveloped countries, that is very relevant. If it’s properly harnessed, the blue-economy potential for a country such as Indonesia is extraordinary. It can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and give them long-term prospects.

LUX: Are there increasing investment opportunities for the blue economy?
Claudio de Sanctis: There are, but there is so much more to be done, which is why the conference we are holding is so interesting. At the moment it is a very thin market but you essentially have three main drivers. The first one is very wealthy families who set up dedicated foundations, which in turn invest long term in ocean conservation and the blue economy. In that space, education plays a massive role. Secondly, if you don’t want to have a dedicated foundation then you can invest in financial instruments. There are more and more liquid financial instruments starting with blue bonds that allow you to contribute capital with a certain degree of return in order to help these underlying themes. The last element that we need to develop is investing directly in companies as more start up with a blue economy angle.

LUX: Will the blue economy become more important within environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in general?
Claudio de Sanctis: That’s a very good question. My view is that when it comes to ESG, there is no need to put different sub-themes within ESG into competition. There is so much need for more across the board. I can say that interest in ocean conservation and the blue economy is growing exponentially and the awareness of it is growing extraordinarily fast because it’s tied to very important problems. I mean, science has now led us to understand that the oxygen for two breaths in every three comes from the sea, which is something that, five to ten years ago, very few people knew. So if you pollute the sea to a point that that sort of oxygen production slows down, you have a huge problem, because we’re not going to be replanting a lot of forest in the next 50 years. And planting forest takes a long time. Most of the ESG themes are fundamentally interlinked. For example, ocean conservation, blue economy and climate change all interlock.

Read more: Fashion designer Kevin Germanier’s sustainable glamour

LUX: Do companies who may believe they are not responsible for, say, ocean degradation because they are based far from the sea, need to be made aware of this interlocking, that the ocean is relevant to them?
Claudio de Sanctis: That is a very fundamental point. Awareness is everything and in my view, the awareness we need to create is not so much in the companies as in the end consumer. Everybody needs to understand the relevance of this resource, that the ocean is deteriorating and what the consequences of this are. And then on the positive side, what are the opportunities we can extract from the sea if we actually manage it properly? When we talk of the problem of plastic in the oceans, everyone thinks of the poor albatross found with plastic in its stomach, which is a significant problem. It’s an easier problem to grasp than microplastics, which are less visible. But while plastic bottle and bag waste affects marine mammals and sea birds, it is microplastics that affect fish. And the biggest polluting factor in the plastic problem is our clothing. Every time we wash our clothes in a washing machine, particularly anything that has plastic fibres, we release microplastics into the ocean. This is just an example, and this is why we need education, because there is so much more that we need to know and that we need consumers to know because it is they who ultimately drive politicians and purchasing.

LUX: What would you like to achieve through your blue economy programme?
Claudio de Sanctis: In our business we talk to a number of very significant families about what it means to actually have positive impact. So even if we help a few of these families be more aware of the problems and solutions, that is already gratifying for me personally in terms of helping the cause. From a Deutsche Bank point of view, my aspiration is that in the next two to three years when Wealth Management clients think about oceans, they think about ocean conservation and economic development tied to that. And then they think of Deutsche Bank and pick up the phone and speak to their banker here.

Find out more: deutschewealth.com

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 7 min
Prosecco bottle against brown background
Prosecco bottle against brown background

Ombra Di Pantera is a new producer of Prosseco, and businessman Utsava Kasera’s latest investment

Utsava Kasera is an entrepreneur and investor with interests in luxury brands, fashion, art and tech. Most recently, his attention has turned to new Prosecco brand Ombra Di Pantera. Here, he tells us about this latest investment, finding a gap in the market and his new year ambitions

Man in suit and bow tie

Utsava Kasera

1. How did you first come across Ombra Di Pantera?

I always wanted to be involved in the drinks industry and the stars aligned when I met the other promoters of Ombra Di Pantera over a lunch through a common connection. The opportunity looked very good and we are on an exciting journey now.

Our inspiration for ‘Ombra’ is delivered from a unique heritage and a fabled history which stretches back to the Roman wines of antiquity. In ancient times, traders who served wine in Venice’s Piazza San Marco would follow the shadow of the Campanile to cool their wine as there was no refrigeration, and the Venetian expression, ‘Ombra de Vin’, meaning ‘Wine’s Shadow’, is still used to order Prosecco in its original heartland. Another interesting fact about Prosecco is that typically a glass contains fewer calories than wine and there is a town called Prosecco nearby Venice, where the name of this bubbly comes from.

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2. What drew you to invest in the business?

The huge demand for Prosecco in the UK and lack of branding around it gives an opportunity to fill a missing gap in the market. The sales of Prosecco have overtaken champagne in the UK, which is now the second biggest market in the world after the US. Besides that, it’s a delicious Prosecco which embodies the elegance of Italian luxury and I believe it has the potential to make its mark in the sparkling wine world.

3. What sets Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco apart from other brands?

Ombra is traditionally crafted from a single vintage, using superior Glera grapes from our delicately cultivated Conegliano vineyard, to deliver a pure expression of the very finest Prosecco. The Prosecco is created ‘in bianco’, meaning the fermentation is without the skins creating the delicate sparkle that is captured over 60 days to produce a fine, persistent perlage. The steep hills of the vineyard provide the perfect conditions to grow  Glera grapes, which require cultivating and harvesting by hand relying on traditional methods refined over a thousand years. Ombra Di Pantera is dedicated to celebrating the traditional heritage and craftsmanship of Italian viticulture to deliver an authentic, exclusive Prosecco experience and can stand up to any high quality champagne or sparkling wine in blind tasting.

Vineyard with lush green vines

Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco is made from Glera grapes grown on their vineyard in Conegliano

4. How does the company fit into your wider investment portfolio?

My investments are across a wide spectrum of industries from tech to hospitality. I particularly invest in industries and projects, which I am passionate about rather than just looking at the numbers. Having said that, Ombra compliments a couple of my investments, which are in private members club, one called 1880 in Singapore and a wine bar chain in London called Vagabond.

Read more: Knight Frank’s Andrew Hay on the best emerging markets for real estate investment

5. What are your ambitions for 2020?

I would like to focus on making Ombra di Pantera bigger by aligning with more luxury partners and concentrate on strategic growth of the brand. I am also a co-founder of ‘Sidehide’, which is a tech app for hotel booking, providing a seamless experience for users and I will be involved in the launch and marketing campaign during 2020. Lastly, I would like to do some volunteering work with one of the charities I am involved with, and learn to play the piano.

6. How do you switch off?

I have a passion for whiskies and cognac. Enjoying a dram of Springbank 21 years whisky or Louis XIII cognac in company of friends relaxes me. Recently, I have started taking out time to cook and I am enjoying it at lot. Travelling is another passion and therapy of its own kind for me.

For more information visit: ombradipantera.com

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Reading time: 3 min
Luxurious villa property
Luxurious villa property

Grevillia is a waterfront residence on the port of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, on the market for €56m

Portrait of a man in a suit

Lord Andrew Hay. Image by John Wright

Lord Andrew Hay is Global Head of Residential at Knight Frank, the international real estate consultancy, and has built up property portfolios for some of the wealthiest people in the world. In this regular column, he is handed a theoretical sum of money by LUX and asked how he would invest it. This month, we asked Lord Hay where he would buy if he had £50m to spend on a single home

“If you had £50m to spend and could buy a property anywhere in the world – where would you choose?” It sounds like a question you’d ask your friends at a dinner party and actually is something I get asked quite regularly. My answer often changes as there are so many places around the world where I’d love to live, but having just returned from my summer holiday and with the thought of sunshine and the Mediterranean fresh in my mind along with this healthy budget, I would have to choose Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera.

Cap Ferrat is glamorous yet unspoilt. It has been a firm favourite of aristocracy and Hollywood celebrities over the years and is arguably one of the most exclusive addresses in Europe. It is easily located between Monaco and Nice, accessible both by car and helicopter making it a huge draw for wealthy clients looking for a second or third home and is somewhere they go to escape.

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As we describe in the latest Knight Frank Prime France Report, the 1.3km forested peninsula is home to around 500 spacious villas on large plots and has one of the strongest international buyer profiles on the French Riviera. The Eastern side is home to the best beaches, the Port and the old town, it offers the widest array of amenities, whilst the west has a steeper coastline and good views. There are two Michelin-starred restaurantsLa Voile d’Or and Le Cap and the small marina has around 560 berths.

Luxurious contemporary furnishings inside a villa

Contemporary interiors of luxury villa Grevillia

When a client arrives on Cap Ferrat, they always ask for homes with direct access to the sea and that’s what I would look for. And, with Knight Frank recently opening its sixth office along the Cote d’Azur in Cap Ferrat, and its 22nd office in France, my team would be primed to help me.

Two properties in particular stand out to me. The first being Grevillia, on the market for €56m. This is an exceptional, waterfront residence on the port of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It is a beautiful modern estate, comprising a principal villa, a secondary villa and a guest house – ideal for someone like me with a large family and friends who regularly join us on holiday.

Luxurious holiday villa with outdoor pool

Luxurious villa terrace with outdoor pool

Villa Neo is built into the hillside above the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer, on the market at €15m.

The second is Villa Neo, on the market at €15m. Significantly under my €50m budget but it is a perfectly presented villa, built into the steep hillside above the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and provides idyllic Riviera scenery. The villa’s wide terrace, infinity pool and principal rooms face the Mediterranean Sea so by day the small sail boats moored in the azure water provide a languid but ever-changing picture while after dark, the lights of the peninsula gently sparkle against the night sky.

Read more: Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2019

Property prices on Cap-Ferrat range from €2,000,000 to over €200,000,000 with the most active band between €5,000,000 and €10,000,000. Prime property prices have increased by 4 per cent in the year to 2018 but this is a most extraordinary market, one that resonates far and wide with international buyers and also those based in Monaco looking for a nearby escape with a slower pace of life. The unique homes on glorious Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat make the market anything but predictable.

Cap Ferrat not only has a timeless quality which my wife Claire, being half-French, would adore, but it also has one of the broadest international buyer profiles of all the markets on the French Riviera. This helps protect owners’ exit strategies by ensuring the market isn’t dependent on the economic fortunes or currency shifts of one particular buyer nationality.

Find out more: knightfrank.co.uk

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Reading time: 3 min
Grand university building and lawn
Grand university building and lawn

California Tech University (Caltech), where Kevin Xu has endowed the new Neurotechnology Center, due to open next year

As a business leader, scientist, activist, media owner and philanthropist, Kevin Xu is the embodiment of a Renaissance entrepreneur. Andrew Saunders delves into the businessman’s master plan
Man leaning against a hotel chair in a suit

Kevin Xu

He may not quite be a household name – at least, not yet – but the chair of the MEBO group of regenerative wound care businesses, Kevin Xu, is a force to be reckoned with in the many spheres of his interest all the same. International entrepreneur and mentor; scientist, academic and researcher; advocate for better commercial relations and greater mutual understanding between the US and China; media owner; committed global philanthropist recognised with an Empact 100 award from the UN.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Xu also manages to fit in being a contributor to leading business titles including Forbes, Wired, Inc and Business Insider. No wonder he says wistfully that he doesn’t get much time to keep up with the fortunes of his favourite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, these days.

It’s an eclectic and impressive line-up of interests for a man whose ‘day job’ is running one of China’s leading biomedical therapeutics businesses, burns treatment specialist MEBO International. But the thread that unites his diverse activities is his personal credo: if you help someone, they will help others in their turn. “I believe in reciprocity and leadership,” he tells me. “I believe that if I can help an individual to lead a different life, then that person may reciprocate back to society when they become a success themselves. That’s why my interests are wide-ranging and don’t have any restrictions – not ethnicity, region, social status or gender bias. It’s all about individuals who I can help and make a difference.”

To aid him in that quest he also possesses two other valuable assets: a packed international diary and a 24-carat contacts list. He was born and raised in California, but we meet in London – he came for Royal Ascot, but also for meetings with charities and NGOs he’s interested in – before he headed to Japan for that country’s first-ever G20 summit. He’s on the advisory board of the California-China Trade Office, serves on the Asian Advisory Board at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, mentors young entrepreneurs at MIT, is the founder of the Kevin Xu Initiative at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and has endowed a new Neurotechnology Center in California Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Perhaps the relationships he is most proud of, however, are his ties to two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a contributor to the Obama Foundation, and recently spent a fortnight with Clinton in the US Virgin Islands, working with the 42nd president of the United States in connection with its efforts to help rebuild the region after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

President Bill Clinton with Hillary and another man

Kevin Xu (pictured with Bill and Hillary Clinton here), is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

His view is that great world leaders all share a concern for humanity – and human life – above all. “True leadership involves a value system that puts people’s lives first. Clinton and Obama have that humanitarian aspect and so have other world leaders I have met – people like Pope Francis and [former UN secretary general] Ban Ki-Moon.”

Xu’s connection with the two former presidents was forged in the aftermath of the traumatic death of his father, MEBO founder Dr Rongxiang Xu, in 2015. “It was an accident – an awful shock,” he says. “It was a moment when I realised the power of mentorship. Presidents Obama and Clinton stepped up and carried me through that time – they sent condolence letters and said they would be role models to teach me how to carry on good leadership.”

At the age of 27, Xu not only had to cope with the loss of his father, but also with being parachuted into the pilot seat of the business that Dr Xu had built and run for 30 years. “My biggest fears when my father passed away were firstly that I didn’t know how to run his business in China, and secondly that I didn’t know how to create connections with people there. I grew up in the US, I didn’t know anything about China.”

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

The business was well established in China, where Dr Xu first developed his pioneering moist environment burns therapy (MEBT) in the 1980s. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, the therapy capitalises on the human body’s innate ability to regenerate its own tissues, in a carefully controlled environment. Even deep-tissue, third-degree burns can be successfully treated without the need for painful or disfiguring skin grafts, says Xu. “My father decided to become a burns surgeon because he realised that burns are the most painful conditions people ever face – both pain from the burn and pain from the treatment.”

By the time Xu took over, the business had trained almost a million doctors in the use of its therapy, and had a network of 65,000 hospitals in China alone. Picking up the reins was quite a responsibility.

Barack Obama shaking hands with a businessman

Xu works with former US president Barack Obama

When President Obama invited Xu to stay with him and be part of the official delegation for the US state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, doors were opened that might otherwise have remained closed to him for years. “Obama helped me to make a whole new group of connections between the US and China that are different from those of my father’s era. I met President Xi almost every day.”

That meeting led to MEBO being selected as one of the Chinese government’s official partners on the UN’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, providing medical experts to help deliver the global programme for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in many countries. As Xu explains, there were ten such official Chinese partners, and nine of them were already chosen by the time he and President Xi met. “I believe in serendipity, and that happened serendipitously. President Xi decided to have MEBO as number ten.”

His network of A-grade connections is also helping to bring the MEBO burns treatment to the US, via California-based company Skingenix, of which he is also CEO. The road to approval is not an easy one; when the process began in the early 2000s, the FDA regulator didn’t even have a category for treatments based on Chinese medicine. Thanks to the new regulations implemented under the administration of another former president, George Bush Jr, it does now – the category of ‘botanic drugs’ – and the approval process is ongoing.

Read more: Travelling beyond the beaten track with Geoffrey Kent

What have his experiences taught him about fostering better understanding between China and the US? “It’s like the psychology of dating – the US way of dating and the Chinese way of dating show exactly how they each do business,” he suggests. “If a Chinese person takes you seriously and wants to marry you, they will take things slowly, because they want to get to know you. If a US person wants to marry you, you are more likely to get into a fight early in the romance – they are more willing to say something that might hurt you, because they care about you.”

They are two ways of achieving the same goal he says, the main difference in both love and business being that the Chinese approach involves taking a long view. “Eastern people think further ahead, but they don’t always state their full intention at the start. They use connotations to imply it, and that can cause misunderstandings with western people.”

People having a meeting around a table

Xu leads a mentoring meeting at the University of California, Berkeley

Another leadership challenge Xu has faced is the fact that many of the experienced executives who help him run MEBO are from his father’s era, and are considerably older than their current boss. “My key advice to young entrepreneurs running a company with older people is not to take your youth as an advantage, but a disadvantage. Be humble and learn what they are thinking. Treat them like your parents, people with more experience than you.”

And what of his co-ownership of Californian media outlet LA Weekly, which he acquired in 2017 alongside several other local investors? Where does this fit into the plan? “I bought it because I understand the importance of media. I love the city where I grew up, but there is too much focus on entertainment, movies and gossip. There is also a more humanitarian side to the city, it just needs bringing out. If I want to change the way people think, I must change the media. Since I bought it, it has become more focused on philanthropy and the arts – a channel for distributing positive energies to people.”

So once again, it may look random from the outside but it’s all part of his plan. What’s the ultimate aim? “I have two goals. My goal for MEBO is that the technology should be available in every country, so that when the world needs us, we will be there. My personal vision is that I want to create a new balance between peace, stability and the self. I want to use science and a new way of thinking to regenerate the world, just as MEBO regenerates the body.”

You heard it here first.

Management by horoscope

Cover of LA weekly magazineEast also meets West in one of Xu’s more unusual leadership techniques – using astrology to recruit the right people. “I like horoscopes because I studied neuroscience, and my favourite part of history is Greek mythology. In the company, I know the horoscope signs for most of my people and I place them according to their strengths. Scorpios are more meticulous, for example, so they are suited to finance work, whereas Leos and Aries are more outspoken – it is easier for them to develop new markets.” What does his own star sign indicate? “I am Libra – that’s why I like balance,” he says.

Find out more about the MEBO group: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Render of birdseye view of a harbour from the top of a building
Luxurious estate home in the Italian countryside

Italy retains its place as one of the most desirable second home destinations in the world, says Andrew Hay. This property, Le Bandite is located in Umbria with easy access to Rome

Portrait of a man in a suit

Lord Andrew Hay

Lord Andrew Hay is Global Head of Residential at Knight Frank, the international real estate consultancy, and has built up property portfolios for some of the wealthiest people in the world. In a new regular column, he is handed a theoretical sum of money by LUX and asked how he would invest it. We kick off by handing Lord Hay £100m and requesting a global residential property investment portfolio

When LUX’s Editor-in-Chief generously offered me the opportunity to “invest” £100m into property, I was unsurprisingly delighted to accept. I have had free rein on where and what I buy, but have decided to invest with both my head and my heart. The reason being – I want to enjoy the properties I purchase but also have a clear focus on investment returns.

With this in mind, I have divided my allocation into equal thirds, between high-end luxury residential property, residential investments with a focus on capital growth and rental returns and investment into student property and senior living. The final 10% I would invest into an agricultural portfolio.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

I have to start in London. Often the best investment strategy involves an understanding of which markets are the least fashionable at the moment – and with Brexit and tax hikes London has been underperforming in recent years.

With few London neighbourhoods having a global brand as strong as Chelsea’s, I firmly believe that Chelsea is the perfect example of an area that has been underperforming and which is now ripe for reassessment.

Prices here have fallen 20% since late 2014, compared with a 12% fall across the wider prime London market. While new-build property in this category achieves a premium, established property trades at between £1,200 and £1,800 per sq ft. With many properties now edging below £1,000 per sq ft, Chelsea is back in the spotlight and cheaper than some less central and glamorous neighbourhoods.

Luxury interiors of a stately home

Interiors of a luxurious villa residence overlooking Lake Como

Yes, the area still lacks the connectivity of other prime neighbourhoods. However, with easy access to the river, unrivalled shopping on the King’s Road and Fulham Road and some of London’s best schools within walking distance – including the Lycée Charles de Gaulle and the London Oratory School – and the promise (or maybe hope) of a station on the future Crossrail 2 underground railway, Chelsea is set for rediscovery.

The next place I would invest is the other side of the world: New Zealand. New flights and rapidly increasing connectivity to Asia means the country is increasingly becoming a go-to destination. Auckland is the logical entry point and investment destination. One location in particular stands out to me – home to the 2021 America’s Cup, Wynyard Quarter is changing fast. Over the past decade, this waterfront precinct, once the heart of Auckland’s marine and petrochemical industries, has emerged as a major hub for national and international corporates, including Fonterra, Datacom, Microsoft and ASB Bank, as well as for the city’s innovation and co-working scenes.

Read more: Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson’s pop-up hotel in Notting Hill

Staying in Australasia, I have to include Sydney in my portfolio – a market that has seen a huge growth in investment over the past two decades from around the world. The city may be remote, but education has been a driving force in attracting Chinese purchasers. The one location I would target is One Barangaroo – Crown’s new development. One Barangaroo is one of the most beautiful developments in the world currently being built and is achieving record prices on the shores of Sydney Harbour overlooking the bridge and the Opera House. It has brought a new global standard of facilities and services to the city.

Luxurious interiors of a penthouse apartment

New York design firm Meyer Davis have crafted designed the interior layouts of residences at One Bangaroo

Render of birdseye view of a harbour from the top of a building

View down to the harbour from One Barangaroo, the latest residential development in Sydney

In Europe, Italy retains its place as one of the most desirable second home destinations in the world. The new flat tax initiative however has cast the country in a new light as a potential permanent base for the world’s wealthy. Italy is certainly worth a closer look. Property prices in many Italian prime markets declined 40% in peak-to-trough terms following the financial crisis, interest rates remain at record lows and the country is better connected than ever before.

In the US, the West Coast is of especial interest to me, the combination of lifestyle and economic dynamism here is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. One area which appeals to me is Pasadena. Home to the Rose Bowl stadium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena offers an attractive combination of relative value compared with neighbouring communities in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and the desirable lifestyle and privacy that residents of Los Angeles seek. The neighbourhood is easily accessible, with a light rail line that puts it within 15-20 minutes of Downtown Los Angeles.

Read more: Kuwait’s ASCC launches visual arts programme in Venice

In terms of growth areas I would point to student accommodation and retirement. Student in particular is counter cyclical (i.e. typically more students in a recession). Participation in tertiary education globally is increasing – OECD predict 8 million internationally mobile students by 2025 (up from 5m today). Markets remain structurally undersupplied. In terms of where Sydney looks good it has a big student population and low pipeline due to shortage of development land. In terms of development, I like big European cities like Barcelona, Lisbon and Paris. European markets comprise with very little existing organised supply. Europe is new front for portfolio development, scale building and brand.

At the opposite end of the age scale is senior living where the market is undergoing rapid growth, underpinned by demographic shifts that are increasing demand for a wider array of specialist housing to suit the changing needs of older purchasers. London and the South East, Bristol and Edinburgh are key UK senior living markets. Globally, America, Canada and Australia are at the forefront of investment.

Finally I would invest in farmland. Choosing where to invest in agricultural land depends very much on your appetite for risk but the world faces both a water shortage and food shortage by 2040 and 2050 respectively and therefore, investors looking at long-term food security are well advised to invest in agricultural land. With the world’s fastest growing population, Africa offers some very exciting opportunities. Zambia, for example, provides a good balance of relative political stability and established infrastructure. The Asia-pacific region is seeing a huge growth in wealth and rain-fed farms on the east coast of Australia are well placed to take advantage of this market.

And, that’s my £100m invested.

Find out more: knightfrank.co.uk

Knight Frank’ Wealth Report directs ultra-high-net-worth individuals on where to invest in property and reflect $3 trillion of private client investment into real estate annually. The countries that have been most robust and performed best over the last decade have been those where there is a steady political and economic situation as well as transparent rule of law, high quality living and first class education. The above portfolio choice reflects this.

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Reading time: 6 min
Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda
Colour portrait of entrepreneur Wendy Yu

Wendy Yu. Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

Wendy Yu – entrepreneur, investor, cultural ambassador, fashion devotee, and frequent flyer between Shanghai, Hong Kong, London and New York – is taking the word ‘global’ to a whole new level, as Elisa Anniss discovers when they meet

Instagram can be hugely revealing about the people who use it, though rarely will you get the fullest picture of any of them. With her 1,913 posts and the 94.1K followers of her Instagram account, @Wendyyu_official, it still paints only a partial picture of this remarkable young woman, who is the founder and CEO of Yu Capital, a major Chinese investor in fashion and technology, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

Nevertheless, snaps of Wendy Yu with Giambattista Valli, Thom Browne and Charlotte Olympia do reveal her stellar fashion credentials. There are the images of the Met Ball in New York and of a dinner for her friend Mary Katrantzou, co-hosted with Lord Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. Instagram also tells us that she appears to be something of a collector of evening gowns. Indeed, the rare snap of her in trousers raises an obvious question. “I love both, to be honest,” she darts back, when challenged. “I’m very spontaneous. Sometimes I love things that are dreamy, crazy and imaginative. At other times I just like very simple things. I love to be a chameleon, it really depends on my mood.”

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This morning she’s flown in from Hong Kong. For the flight, she wore head-to-toe Alaïa with a yellow Mary Katrantzou fur. It’s typical of what she wears on planes – Alaïa or a kaftan from Oscar de la Renta paired with flat shoes. “All super comfy so I can sleep easily.” Last month she flew every two or three days. Shanghai is her main base, but Hong Kong, London and New York, are all places where Yu regularly spends time. “New York more now because next year we’re launching an exciting project there,” she ventures, but that’s all she’ll give on the details. Still, Shanghai is where she has a home and where her parents’ live – Yu is heir to her family’s business, the Mengtian Group, China’s leading wooden door manufacturer.

It takes sitting down and talking to this young entrepreneur and philanthropist to see that dressing up and accumulating possessions isn’t really what drives her. Her enquiring mind and the way she lights up, crackling with enthusiasm and talking nineteen to the dozen when discussing her many passions, leaves a lasting impression. It’s certainly something that Instagram is unable to convey. Fashion, disruptive technology, the arts, China and being a Sino- Western bridge connecting people, are just some of the subjects she tackles with energy.

“Wendy is passionate about London designers and entrepreneurs and has definitely made a positive impact by supporting some of the best talent out there. We need more people like her,” enthuses José Neves, the fashion-tech businessman who founded Farfetch, and husband of Daniela Cecilio Neves, in whose business Yu was an angel investor. Undoubtedly, it was Yu’s inquisitiveness that brought her to England in the first place. This involved spending time at school in Somerset, in the English countryside where she got a taste of the British boarding school system as well as meeting other, mostly non-Chinese pupils. Next, she went on to complete a degree in fashion management at the London College of Fashion with a stint in between interning at Vogue China. She has also completed executive business programmes at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, interned for a family office in the Middle East and has spent time working for Mengtian. “Truth be told, while education is important, it’s not until you do internships and start working that you really learn about business,” she says.

Breakfast hosted by Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush

Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, co-hosted breakfast for Vogue China’s Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung

Today, Yu is the youngest member of the Fashion Trust, a British Fashion Council charity, and a founding member of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Young Patrons’ Circle. Even though she herself doesn’t use the word ‘anglophile’, with her love of Harrods – “I still vividly remember the first time I went [there]. It really ignited my passion for fashion” – and her appreciation of British life beyond London – “I love the town of Taunton, and Devon is beautiful, too”– it’s a moniker that fits.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on finding new places in a well-travelled world

In 2015, Yu founded the investment vehicle Yu Capital and in January 2018, Yu Capital became Yu Holdings. Yu Holdings is a platform created to unite the worlds of strategic investment, technology, philanthropy, arts and culture and to reinforce business and cultural ties between China and the rest of the world.

“The evolution of Yu Capital into Yu Holdings was a strategic decision to consolidate my investment activities with my cultural and fashion projects, all with the end goal of bridging the economic and cultural gap between China and the rest of the world, a mission that drives every decision Yu Holdings makes,” says Yu. The investment vehicle is divided into three main areas of interest: Yu Capital, Yu Fashion and Yu Culture. Yu Capital, the investment arm of Yu Holdings, is focused on strategic investment in global technology, lifestyle and fashion businesses that show high potential for growth in a global market.

Yu’s two technology investments are Didi Chuxing (for more information see end of article), the largest taxi-hailing firm in China, valued at US$35 billion and whose other investors include Apple, Alibaba and Tencent, and Tujia.com. This Chinese online marketplace and hospitality service enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging, something like Airbnb (see end of article).

“Because Didi and Tujia are both multi-billion-dollar companies, they have very big and powerful investors. I’m involved financially rather than strategically,” she notes. “I’m generally less involved with technology investments than with my fashion and lifestyle investments, where I look to add value and contribute to their development and growth.”

Models dressed in colourful costume walking down the catwalk

One of Yu Capital’s recent ventures, Mary Katrantzou, with her SS18 show

Earlier in 2017, Yu Capital made its first luxury fashion investment in the London-based designer brand Mary Katrantzou (see end of article) whose sought-after collections are sold in leading luxury stores around the globe. Yu confesses that before she makes the final decision on an investment she consults with her fortune master, who told her great things about Mary, prompting her to go ahead. “At the back of my mind there is always the question, is this relevant to the Chinese market?”

Read more: President of Monaco Boat Service Lia Riva on the family business

Whether she proceeds with a fashion investment or not also depends on the chemistry she has with a designer as well as the company’s future potential. “With Mary, I really like her as a person as well as a business woman. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she’s hugely talented.” She was also struck by Katrantzou’s background in architecture and opportunities that lay waiting in the whole lifestyle sector.

Yu believes that past collaborations with Adidas, Moncler and Topshop have already helped Mary Katrantzou capture the attention of Chinese consumers and that there is still greater opportunity there for Katrantzou’s core brand. “We are very open to the new emerging designers and the purchasing power in China is now very strong. However, one needs to select carefully which partners in China will be the best in the long term because they all want exclusivity.” Yu can help Katrantzou navigate these complexities. “I don’t have any agenda, I only want what’s best for Mary,” she says.

The investment in Mary Katrantzou followed two made in 2015, one in ASAP54, recently re-branded Fashion Concierge, and another in the sustainable accessories brand Bottletop. Yu was drawn to Fashion Concierge by the disruptive technology it displayed at the time of its launch, whereas with Bottletop it was the idea of social investment that appealed to her. “I liked their concept and approach to sustainability,” she says. As a pioneering fashion accessories brand (founded in 2012 by Oliver Wayman and Cameron Saul, the son of Mulberry founder Roger Saul), the brand revolves around the simple idea of re-cycling the ring pulls from drinks cans – hence the name. A novel, sustainable, chainmail-like material, often with an enamel finish in a range of colours, helps to make Bottletop products, which include totes, clutches, backpacks and belts, instantly identifiable. The company also funds the Bottletop Foundation, which supports young people in Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. “Wendy is a rare visionary and we have loved having her as part of the Bottletop family,” says Saul. “Wendy is also very strategic and has supported us with important introductions as we position the brand to launch in Asia.”

This is echoed by Daniela Cecilio Neves of Fashion Concierge: “I’ve greatly benefited from Wendy’s insights as a tech-savvy, fashion-loving individual, who can also provide me with a perspective on China,” she says.

Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda

Wendy Yu at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda

Ever since Yu took a trip to Rwanda with Brita Fernandez Schmidt, the UK executive director of the charity Women for Women International, social investment, and how similar principles could be applied to the less developed parts of China, have been at the forefront of Yu’s mind. “Brita invited me to see her work in Rwanda because that’s where they have the Women’s Opportunity Center. I’m very curious and I’ve always wanted to see different parts of the world. It was the most inspiring trip I’ve ever been on. I’m looking to potentially develop some culture-related projects with Women for Women, as Brita is keen to see rural parts of China. As a Chinese woman, I would like to explore how we could create support areas in China where there are still huge gender inequalities.”

This leads into the overarching ambition of Yu Culture, the purpose of which is to enrich China’s cultural landscape through development and exchange initiatives in film, art and media, and by working in special partnership with international cultural institutions on projects to be unveiled in 2018.

Yu is already closely involved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. “The V&A has been one of my favourite museums since my student days,” she enthuses. “They invited me to join and I said yes without hesitation.” Her role includes introducing friends from Asia as well as a young group of people from the international fashion and art world. “It’s a bridge, again,” she continues. “Introducing people comes very naturally to me. It’s win-win for everybody because they love the V&A and getting to know the industry community, and the museum loves to meet new art collectors.”

Her involvement is certainly appreciated by the museum. “As a Founding Member of the Young Patrons’ Circle, Wendy Yu has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Victoria and Albert Museum, not only contributing to the successful launch of this important initiative and its exciting programme, but also through her involvement with the Museum’s annual Summer Party and her passion and knowledge of the V&A’s fashion collection,” says a senior museum spokeswoman.

“I love to be the bridge between China and the rest of the world because I love both cultures and want to enhance the connection between the two,” continues Yu. The South China Morning Post recently described her as being both “a sounding board for British designers negotiating the labyrinthine ways of doing business in China” and China’s “unofficial ambassador for British fashion”.

Net-A-Porter, a company Yu admires because of its “great customer experience”, invited Yu to become one of its global ambassadors. In this new capacity, she is scheduled to take the former Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, and her clothing brand Cefinn, which sells on Net-A-Porter, to China in 2018. It’s a collection she considers to be super wearable with a good price point. “I’ve been wearing her blouse with different outfits and wearing her skirts,” enthuses Yu. “I respect Samantha’s vision and I think Cefinn would be very relevant to Chinese professional ladies.”

According to Yu there are still major differences between the West and China, particularly in terms of technology. In China, she can go out carrying just a mobile phone. She explains that instead of a wallet, Chinese people use Alipay, a third-party mobile and online payment platform established in China in 2004 by the Alibaba group, or WeChat Pay, launched by Tencent.

Her insight into a world that the West is hungry to know more about, is just one of the reasons why she is so in demand in the fashion world. “Wendy’s business acumen and knowledge of the financial sector are invaluable assets to our British designers hence why her support and dedication to the BFC Fashion Trust are so invaluable,” says Caroline Rush CBE, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. Yu describes Rush as “a friend and a mentor” and is someone with whom she co-hosted a breakfast to welcome Angelica Cheung, the Vogue China editor-in-chief, to London. Yu’s involvement in the BFC Fashion Trust has also led to her meeting many designers and learning about the challenges that they face. “You find that a lot of designers are super-creative but they don’t really have that business sense. Nowadays, for a fashion brand to evolve, you have to have both creative vision and to understand the commercial world, exactly who the customers are and what they are looking for.”

Read more: Why we love Club Dauphin on Cap Ferrat right now

Huishan Zhang is a London-based designer in Yu’s friendship circle who is known for his classically feminine evening gowns and dresses that sell in his Mount Street flagship. Like Yu, Zhang was born in China, but left when he was still a teenager. “I’m great friends with Huishan Zhang,” Yu says. “He’s a lot of fun, we share a lot of friends and look to support each other as well, on both a personal and a business level.” According to Yu, he makes her made-to-measure dresses for her and she collects signed sketches of his designs. “Wendy has been a good friend to me,” says Zhang, who doesn’t manufacture in Italy but produces his clothes in his family’s factory in China. “She is an active entrepreneur and supporter of the fashion industry, honing in on new talent, along with great passion and a unique style.”

Colour portrait photograph of entrepreneur wendy yu

Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

It’s mid-afternoon and we’re coming to the end of our interview now and still there’s no sign of any jet lag or of her flagging post-photo shoot. Yu’s energy levels are high. But then they have to be, as she’s off to Lisbon next, speaking at Web Summit, which bills itself as “the largest tech conference in the world” and welcomes an extensive and diverse line up of speakers ranging from Al Gore to Suzy Menkes. Yu says she’s booked to talk on two panels, one with Caroline Rush and another with the CEO of Matchesfashion.com and Vestiairecollective.com. “It’s all come about very spontaneously and it’s a nice group of industry insiders.”

It won’t be Yu’s first foray into the speaker circuit. In June she appeared on the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Forum panel alongside a group including Yana Peel (CEO of the Serpentine Galleries) and the shoe designer Rupert Sanderson, discussing cultural and commercial partnerships in China. She has also given similar talks covering her investments and connecting with China, in Cambridge and at London Business School, as well as back in China. When asked if she ever gets nervous about speaking publicly she replies: “No, not really. Though I always prefer talking on a panel, it feels more natural. I wouldn’t say no to a glass of champagne if my nerves get the better of me!” And why not, I say.

LUX would like to thank 45 Park Lane in Mayfair, London, for the use of its exquisite Curzon Suite for the shoot of Wendy Yu by Jonathan Glynn-Smith. 45 Park Lane is the artistic sibling to The Dorchester, next door, and has a fabulous program of art events, its own curator, and its own artist in residence. dorchestercollection.com

For more information on Wendy Yu’s investment platform visit: yu-holdings.com

Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou, who won the £200,000 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize in 2015, is Yu Capital’s most recent investment. One of the heavy hitters at London Fashion Week, the Greece-born designer delights the audience each season with highly original ideas brought to life using elaborate embroidery and embellishment, a mix of textiles, prints and silhouettes and an inimitable signature that shouts Mary. The London-based ready-to-wear marque was established in 2008, after the designer graduated with an MA in Fashion from Central Saint Martins. She was soon dubbed The Queen of Print by the press, a tag that recognised the enormous influence of her work in the medium. In recent years, collaborations, including capsule ranges with Longchamp, Moncler, and Adidas Originals, have helped to broaden her appeal at home and abroad, and of course in China. Mary Katrantzou doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar store, yet, but she does sell to leading luxury stores in many countries including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Le Bon Marché. “Wendy is an extraordinary person with a pragmatic and forward-looking vision, who is a close friend as well as an ambassador for the brand,” says Mary Katrantzou. “The most important thing for me is to be surrounded by people who understand my vision and support me in building a truly international lifestyle brand. It’s very exciting to enter our 10th anniversary with a board of incredible women advisors who are shaping the industry in their own right and will be helping us shape our future and reach our full potential.”

Tujia

The rental company has taken couch surfing to a whole new level with $300 million of investments announced in October 2017. Giving Airbnb a serious run for its money, and valued at $1.5 billion, Tujia was founded in 2011 under Tujia Online Information and Technology Company of Limited Liability. With 345 locations across China to choose from and at least 1,000 partnerships internationally, it boasts 650,000 listings and is tapping into a large affluent travelling class, revolutionizing the hospitality industry in China.

Didi Chuxing

The taxi-hailing app is China’s answer to Uber (in fact, it acquired Uber China in 2016) and is the largest such company in the world, with 200 million rides under its belt last year. The app was launched in 2012 and today has over 450m users across the Chinese continent, spanning 400 cities and a variety of services. From social ride-sharing to options including Didi Chauffeur, Didi Bus and Didi Car Rental and Hitch, its social ride-sharing branch, it has taken China by storm and has recently developed an English-language version of the app. It is also looking towards the future with groundbreaking investment into AI technology, with over $5.5 billion raised in 2017.

This article originally appeared in the LUX LOVE Issue, Spring 2018

 

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Reading time: 16 min
stylish contemporary interiors of a lounge space with orange chairs, big glass windows and wooden detailing
stylish contemporary interiors of a lounge space with orange chairs, big glass windows and wooden detailing

Spring Place New York: members-only collaborative workspace and social club

Co-working spaces are already well integrated into our urban landscapes. Companies like WeWork provide communal offices for start-ups and self-employed workers whilst the likes of Soho House invite members to use their residences for wining, dining and the occasional signing of a multi-million deal. Spring, however, aims to marry the two by offering physical studio spaces to rent and membership to a network of high profile brands and individuals. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to the co-founder and CEO Francesco Costa about his vision
Colour portrait of founder of Spring Studios Francesco Costa wearing a black blazer and a blue shirt, smiling

Francesco Costa

LUX: Can you tell us about the concept of Spring?
Francesco Costa: I see Spring as a brand and an experienced company. It’s a brand that helps other brands and individuals in the luxury and aspirational industries to grow their businesses. We work with already established brands and freelance individuals, and it is the connection between these more established brands, emerging brands, talented young people and established talents that creates a unique environment.

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We now do creative agency production, post production and digital; we have studios, we have event spaces, we have co-work spaces and all of this together means that our clients or members or even our shareholders see us not as transaction opportunity, but as a long term opportunity. We are building a community and as a member of that community you are entitled to certain benefits. For example, we did an Estee Lauder campaign with Misty Copeland, the first African American Female Principal Dancer with ABT (American Ballet Theatre) and then we started working with ABT, and now we are the agency for ABT. We create certain content for them and some programming and then through us ABT got in touch with other brands that they want to sponsor ABT, and that creates further opportunities. That’s how this ecosystem works. Of course, the physical space has a key role because a lot of co-brands are trying to complete this without the investment – by that I mean not just a financial investment but an investment in time and the effort of finding a physical space – and it’s very difficult to do without having a physical hub in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Milan where people can actually meet, where people can create opportunities. I think it is impossible to achieve what we are trying to achieve now.

Contemporary co working space with shared tables and woman working on laptop

An example of Spring’s stylish co-working space at Spring Place New York

LUX: When you started Spring, was the intention always to go in this direction? Or did it start more as a studio space that companies could use?
Francesco Costa: It’s interesting because everything started as a real estate investment in New York. Myself and Alessandro Cajrati, my business partner, had the idea to create a studio event space, a hub for fashion. Our partner was Jimmy Moffat, the creator of Art and Commerce, let’s say he was our expert in the field. And then we discovered this company in London called Spring Studios (founded in the late ’90s strictly as a studio space), which we thought could be a good partner – they approached us and we liked their vision.

Read more: 6 Questions with world record-breaking sailor Giovanni Soldini

colourful contemporary interiors with pink arm chair, patterned pink wall and an electric guitar

The music room at Spring Place NY

Robin Derrick had just joined and Robin’s vision was to create content for companies that were functioning in the digital space. Then at a certain point, when the project in New York was growing, we saw that there was a synergy in what we were doing so we merged the two companies (the American investors remain the majority investors). That’s how Spring Studios as we now know it started.

Then a bit later, approximately two and a half years ago, there was a co-worker revolution which attracted a lot of attention – it became a kind of trend – and I thought it was interesting to give a physical space to the fashion community. The fashion community, but also the art community and other communities involved in the business of culture, tend to travel a lot and have a lot of social interactions. Frieze is a good example, or events or fashion shows or dinners that fashion brands put on, but there was no place where you could meet more professionally and during the daytime so I thought that there was a need for this kind of space, a place where CEOs or the head of communications can connect and collaborate with other brands and individuals.

Open plan industrial style dining room with exposed ceiling and square wooden tables

The main dining room at Spring Place NY where professionals can meet and socialise

LUX: How does your business model work? How do you benefit from the collaborations?
Francesco Costa: There two things that I get out of it: one is the attachment to the brand, to the physical space. The co-brand has an advantage working with Spring or being at Spring which brings them closer to us. The second is on the offer and the pricing. For example, we have showrooms that we rent for 2000/3000 dollars a day and we don’t rent for 2000/3000 a day because the real estate is better that the real estate next door which rent for 1000 a day, we rent it at that cost because the odds are that a journalist or a CEO or a famous blogger walks by, sees the product and thinks that it’s worth talking about or engaging with. I actually have a recent example of this. A very small, new shoe brand run by two young women with limited capital, launched their product in one of our showrooms and a buyer for one of the biggest retails was in the space for another meeting at that time. He saw the product, loved it and they signed a multi-million contract. This is what we offer, and this is what I mean about the benefits the community can provide.

Stylish industrial style bar with leather stools, exposed ceiling and bar tended preparing drinks

Travelling professionals and members of Spring can also make use of the bar area to meet with friends or relax

LUX: Finally, can you tell us a little bit about the brands that work with you and the kinds of projects you might work on together?
Francesco Costa: Of course – Estee Lauder might shoot a campaign in the studio, but that’s just the start. If we talk about our clients for whom we do the production, we have Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, L’Oreal to name a few. We do their campaigns. Then we have a whole other set of partners or clients for whom we run events. For example, we work with Universal Music, we did the Grammy’s week in January, New York Fashion week twice a year, Tribeca Film Festival, the list goes on.

To learn more about Spring’s studios and events visit: springstudios.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Portrait of Founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group Johnny Hon in front of artwork

Dr Johnny Hon

Johnny Hon, founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group, is on a mission to lower cultural and trade barriers between east and west to encourage commerce, charity and cultural exchange. The entrepreneur and philanthropist, based in London and Hong Kong, speaks to LUX Editor-at-Large Gauhar Kapparova
portrait of LUX Editor at Large Gauhar Kapparova

LUX Editor-at-Large, Gauhar
Kapparova

LUX: The Global Group seems to have diverse interests and ambitious plans.
Johnny Hon: I founded the Global Group in 1997 whilst completing my PhD at Cambridge University. It has since grown to become a leading venture capital, investment and strategic consultancy with offices in London and Hong Kong. Over the past 20 years, the Global Group has evolved from financing high-yield technology companies to expand into private equity, angel investment and financial services. The company’s diverse interests and areas of expertise range from fine art to FinTech, biotechnology to entertainment and leisure. The future of the Global Group is exciting – we’re a rapidly growing company that responds to opportunities, rather than limiting ourselves to specific sectors. We are always looking for exciting, interesting opportunities, whether that’s a start-up in the UK or supporting the growing appetite for excellent quality wine in China.

LUX: You catalyse and facilitate trade between Europe and China. This seems to be important to you at what must be an essential time to be doing it.
Johnny Hon: We live in an increasingly global era and this is changing the face of modern business. The Global Group has always worked with European companies looking to enter the Asian market, as well as Chinese clients and high net-worth individuals with aspirations in the European market. I believe now, more than ever, it’s essential to encourage trade and mutual engagement between Europe and China and in particular to usher in a new golden era of Sino-UK relations.

In my opinion Brexit can open up vast potential as it will provide overseas investors with more opportunities than ever to enter the market. We have our European office in London, and I think it will always be the financial heart of Europe. I encourage Chinese clients to invest in the UK’s businesses and future, and vice versa, and feel optimistic about the future of global business.

Global businessman Johnny Hon shakes hands with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Johnny Hon at the charity première of the stage show 42nd Steet with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

LUX: You have a broad portfolio of business, philanthropic and diplomatic interests. Please tell us more – it seems you are in effect an ambassador between east and west at a very high level?
Johnny Hon: The main mission of the Global Group is, as our motto says, ‘Bridging the New Frontiers’. We work to remove barriers between the East and the West, and I am passionate about reflecting this in my personal and business interests.

I am British-educated but was born in Hong Kong, and I’m deeply proud of my roots and Chinese heritage. I have always felt like I represent both cultures and I have tried hard to act as an ambassador – a gateway – ever since I set up my company. The Global Group challenges expectations and concerns about doing business in China, and I also embody this role in my diplomatic work.

I am the Honorary Consul for Grenada in Hong Kong and the country’s Ambassador-at-Large. I take huge pride in the private consultancy and advisory work I do with state leaders, prime ministers and presidents from countries around the world.

Charitable giant cheque handover on stage in Hong Kong

Johnny Hon’s broad range of philanthropic and diplomatic work includes charitable fund raising

Philanthropy is a vital part of my work and an endless source of motivation and inspiration for the Global Group. One position that fills me with particular pride is my role as the first ever Diamond Benefactor of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I am responsible for growing the scheme throughout the AsiaPacific region and introducing Chinese students and young people to such exciting life skills as teamwork, enterprise and leadership.

I’m also a Founder Benefactor of London based think tank Asia House and Vice President of the 48 Group Club, which works to raise awareness of Chinese business and innovation in the UK and promote positive relations between the two countries.

In all areas of my life – business, diplomacy, philanthropy and personal – I take great pride and pleasure in my ambassadorial role.

LUX: Does the West have much to learn from China, and vice versa?
Johnny Hon: We can all learn and benefit from a global outlook. China is now a hub of technological advancements and entrepreneurial spirit. The West can learn from its productivity levels, dedication to innovation and broad acceptance of technology, especially regarding the fourth industrial revolution.

The West, and the UK in particular, is inspiring in the approach it takes to investing in future talent and it is the home of some of the world’s greatest educational institutions. It is also an outstanding provider of services, especially in the financial and legal sectors.

From East to West, I am passionate about education and how it is already changing the business landscape. Right now, over 300 million people in China are learning English and the UK has the world’s second largest population of Chinese students studying overseas. I think we should all look to China and how it is encouraging, supporting and inspiring a global outlook for the next generation.

LUX: Tell us more about your philanthropy and your plans in that area.
Johnny Hon: Philanthropy and social responsibility is at the core of the Global Group. It bolsters my sense of purpose and motivates me to work even harder.

I have always wanted to give back. When I was reading for my PhD at Cambridge, I realised that I would be able to have more impact as a businessman than a doctor, and this started my philanthropic career.

Two Asian business men standing in front of 48 Group Club sign

Amongst many philanthropic roles, Johnny Hon is the Vice President of the 48 Group Club

We’ve now donated to over 160 charities worldwide and my projects have ranged from setting up Oxford and Cambridge University scholarship schemes to sponsoring the first London production of the China National Beijing Opera Company at Sadler’s Wells through the Hon Foundation for Music and the Performing Arts.

It is particularly rewarding to be able to combine my passion for the arts with my interests in raising awareness of Eastern culture in the UK, supporting the Global Group’s mission to bridge the gap between the East and West.

LUX: Please tell us about other areas you are developing in your business that are exciting you right now.
Johnny Hon: Sitting at the helm of a rapidly expanding company that is growing in numbers, clients, countries of operation, and team members, is hugely exciting in itself.

Looking at investment opportunities and areas, right now, there is a fascinating trend for Chinese investors to look to British heritage companies. China has a growing consumer society with an increased disposable income and appetite for British luxury goods such as whisky and smoked salmon. There’s a huge market there for UK companies to work with China, and vice versa, to develop this and other opportunities.

This year, we are building on the sustainable side of the Global Group, with a focus on our shared global future. We are focusing on technology that sets out to tackle challenges posed by issues such as population growth and its environmental impact, including green technology, agricultural technology and biotech, for example.

Investing in something that could improve life quality and expectancy means that I have the potential to make a real impact and change the lives of many millions of people for the better, which is both exciting and awe-inspiring.

johnnyhon.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Wendy yu wears bespoke desinger dress
Wendy Yu

Wendy Yu flies between London and Hong Kong for her businesses on a regular basis

Wendy Yu is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and the founder and CEO of Yu Capital. With investments in China and Europe in fields as diverse as transportation and sustainable fashion, Yu is a visionary – with a penchant for dresses. As the youngest member of the British Fashion Council board of trustees, founding member of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Young Patrons Circle’ and heir to her family’s business Mengtian Group (China’s leading wooden door manufacturer), she is a Renaissance woman par excellence. Kitty Harris chatted to Yu over an English breakfast in London about her new group, Yu Holdings, sustainable impact investment, and her healthy obsession with ball gowns.
Wendy Yu entrepreneur

Wendy Yu

LUX: Your father runs the Mengtian Group and your mother is a successful private investor. What are the most important lessons you learnt from them?
Wendy Yu: Resilience and being determined. I think my dad is a dreamer, but he is genuinely determined and I really like that. He built his business from scratch and I think he has encountered a lot of hardships during his lifetime, but he never quit. He is always so passionate, determined and relentless about what he is going to achieve.

Since I was young, I have had the mindset that if I want to achieve something, I will find any possible way to achieve it. My dad has taught me about the ‘win-win’ mindset, that in everything you do, if you want to keep it sustainable, you have to not just do it for yourself, but also for others. Before I came to study in England, when I was fifteen, he had this really long talk with me. He said “there are three qualities that I want you to have in your life. First of all, to be a loving person. Secondly, always to fight for the better version of yourself and always think about how to improve yourself. Thirdly, never be afraid of hardships and be relentless about what you want to get.”

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LUX: As vice chairman of the family company is there ever any tension when working with family members?
Wendy Yu: Yes, absolutely. I am a very logical person, but sometimes with family business it can get too emotional when you have different ideas to each other. My dad is a very solid entrepreneur, but he is very Chinese. When he comes to England, he doesn’t eat British food and will only eat Chinese food. He loves spicy, authentic hotpot only at home. I think there is definitely tension, because there are so many big personalities and strong characters. But, at the same time we have bonded with each other and we just want the best for the company and the best for each other.

My dad is very happy with the company being one of the biggest manufacturers in Asia and China and he is happy with the brand. He is happy to make the most out of the Chinese market, because it is so big. My vision is really to expand my family business and legacy globally and to create a solid and well-established international company and brand. My education and experience in England, since my teenage years, has given me opportunities to grow up with both eastern and western mentalities and perspectives; that is where the conflict lies sometimes. Very recently I have restructured my company, Yu Capital, and the main entity will be based in Hong Kong. Under Yu Holding, there will be Yu Capital, Yu Culture and Yu Fashion, because I’ve realised so much of what I do is not just the investment. There is philanthropy, cultural exchange and fashion collaborations.

Entrepreneur Wendy Yu pictured on red carpet at The Fashion Awards 2016

Wendy Yu at The Fashion Awards 2016.

My vision is to connect investments with the innovation and creativity between the East and the West and I feel that Yu Holding will be a better entity than Yu Capital to be strategic about engagement with these sectors. I usually divide my investments into financial investments and strategic investments. Yu Capital would be more focused on financial investments, that is on the technology side like Didi, the Chinese taxi app, and Tujia, China’s home-rental website and hedge funds.

The strategic investments would be in fashion, cultural exchange to support the museums and the art world, to connect art between the East and the West. Those are two of my big passions and I feel I can say that ninety percent of the time, I spend time on my own business: Yu Holding and Yu Capital. I feel the pressure that no matter what I do and how well I do within my family business, my dad will always be the person saying yes and no. I am like my dad, as I like having the say of what direction to go in. I think he will be proud to see what Yu holding is going to achieve in the next three years and I can prove that my vision isn’t bad or limited , because I want to do things globally, not just in China. I like being independent and I think it would be a waste of my experience and education here if I don’t connect the world with China.

Read next: Salvatore Ferragamo on family prestige and Tuscan indulgence

LUX: It sounds like your business is global, so it isn’t aimed at any one territory. Is that right?
Wendy Yu: Yes, that is absolutely right. I have two partners who stay in Shanghai and they come from very solid financial investment backgrounds, one of whom is my cousin. There is still a bit of family force there but that is to make sure that I don’t do anything crazy. Yu Holdings is really my vision and my two partners are amazing. They love that I am creative and pull off different business deals. They love the idea that I’m a great matchmaker. I am good at spotting and sensing which two companies or parties will potentially have great synergy and to be the bridge that joins them.

LUX: Is part of the plan to set up a luxury group?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely, but it would be in ten years, because I think I am at the beginning stage of my career. I think I leave my mark on everything I do, and it is important that the projects are commercially successful as well. With my strategic investments, I put less money in, but I have the presence and we help each other. I have a team doing the portfolio management for me, but at the end of the day, I am the one that is making the decisions. I think after you’ve done all the due diligence and risk assessments you have to go with your heart.

LUX: Why was it important for you to be involved in the Young Patrons Circle at the V&A?
Wendy Yu: I was invited to be the founding member of the Young Patrons Circle; they know I support a lot of different museums and art galleries, so it seemed natural that they asked me.

Sian Westerman, Caroline Rush (Chief Executive of the BFC) and Wendy Yu on terrace in London

Sian Westerman, Caroline Rush (Chief Executive of the BFC) and Wendy Yu

LUX: You’re the youngest patron of the British Fashion Council (BFC) Trust – what does your role involve?
Wendy Yu: I joined a while ago and through the BFC platform I get to meet a lot of designers and learn the challenges they have encountered. I have become friends with a few of them and we have bonded. I support them by introducing them to all of my friends. I love to support women and the people I like, with no other intentions. When I think a girlfriend will like their work, I just introduce them to each other. It is a win-win situation for both of them and I take no commission! My family really believes in karma and I think that in the long-run, if you support people they will support you back. I usually get along with two types of people. One type is very creative (designers and artists) and the other type is those in the finance world. I think there are two parts of me, one is very geeky and numerical, and I love to be creative and to think outside of the box.

LUX: How much input do you have in your different investments?
Wendy Yu: I am tremendously involved in them. I am very hands-on and I chat to people for specialised advice. Usually, we have around one hundred deals to look at over a year. Normally, I have a sense of whether a deal will work or not. We do a very careful analysis for around thirty of them. Then, I look at the report and certain things I will naturally feel are great. For example, for Didi and Tujia I knew instantly that it would work, but I still asked them to do the analysis. Decisions have become relatively quick and we made both deals over a period of two months and they are big investments. But, with fashion investments, I have to get to know the designer on a more personal level. It is generally a smaller investment and I know it is not purely financial. My financial adviser will write the report listing the pros and cons, since it is a strategic, impact investment. When I invest in something, before I make my final decision, I think, ‘what is the worst thing that could happen?’ Of course, you should also consider what is the best thing that could happen, but if I can take the worst thing that could happen, then I am happy to do it. Bottletop was one of my first investments and I am very happy with it, even though I didn’t get any return from it. I love the idea and I think the two founders, Cameron Saul and Oliver Wayman, are amazing entrepreneurs. What they are trying to do (recycling bottletops to make accessories) is great and they are supporting women in Africa and Brazil. They are growing quite fast and at a steady pace.

LUX: What is the typical timeframe to hold and sell an investment?
Wendy Yu: When I first started, I invested at a very early stage. Later I realised that’s not my favourite type of investment, because you hold it for so long. What I really like are pre IPO investments. I really like opportunities like Didi and Tujia – large companies, because I believe those companies are really shaping our world, or shaping China at least. I love being part of the change in many ways and in terms of the financial return, for example the Didi deal, I got a 47% return over a 14-month period of time, which is great. You don’t really get that from the fashion brand. I invest through a fund and we sold part of our shares already. With hedge funds, it is very calculated. You would only put a few million in and the return could be over 100% each year, but it varies because it fluctuates over time. You could make a loss of 20%, or you could win 100%. That’s why you need to invest in different hedge funds. I am very involved and I am very passionate about it, because naturally I love numbers and I am very excited by them and I love creativity.

Wendy Yu travels to Hong Kong

Dinner in Hong Kong, working breakfast in London

LUX: How do you think the investment market is going to change in the next ten years?
Wendy Yu: I think China and Asia, the emerging market, is extremely exciting. But, having said that, I think that you have to really value your opportunities carefully. I have noticed that a lot of investments that are making great returns are in China. It isn’t really happening in London. I think European or American investments, are very strategically relevant with what I want to do and achieve. It is a great value investment over the long-term. In the Chinese market, it is a great financial investment over a certain period of time. I am now also starting up a joint venture with my French partner Kacy Grine, who is an incredible capable and intelligent French banker, he was serving as an adviser of the former French President and has been a long time personal advisor Prince Al-Waleed, who is the biggest investor of Saudi Arabia. We are setting up a joint venture. We feel it is the time to connect the foreign giant technology companies or foreign brands in China and to do the matchmaking with you in the West. The Chinese companies want to go global and the global companies are interested in the Chinese market, but they really want to find the right partner and we are of value in this matchmaking process.

LUX: When you do the matchmaking, you obviously add value to your partners, but how do you benefit from it?
Wendy Yu: It varies from case to case according to the level of our involvement and the deal structure, but we generally act as their advisors and matchmakers.

Read next: Priya Paul of The Park Hotels on balancing innovation and heritage 

LUX: In terms of sustainable investment, are you looking to be more sustainable in your investments?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely. I think my philanthropy investment and impact investment is very sustainable. I am trying to balance it out. A while ago, I studied at Oxford Saïd Business School while they were doing an impact investment programme, I was very inspired. I realised that when you pass away, you don’t leave anything. You only leave the good things you have done. I think until I reach a certain level in my career, I want to pledge the majority of my wealth to the company. I don’t want to keep it all, honestly. What Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done is wise. I don’t want to hold on to so much. I want to enjoy life for sure, but one of my missions is to do things worthwhile that I’m proud of. I want my family to be proud that I am leaving something meaningful and sustainable, that will stay there for a long time.

Ethan K handbag collaboration with Wendy Yu

Ethan K x Wendy Yu handbag collection at Harrods

LUX: Tell us about the inspiration behind the Ethan K x Wendy Yu handbag collection at Harrods last year…
Wendy Yu: We have been friends for a while and I’ve bought from him. He probably likes my energy and I like his energy. Just like with Mary [Katrantzou] and my other designer friends, we like each other’s energy. They inspire me and I inspire them. I always give them crazy ideas that they love. He said, ‘let’s do a Wendy Yu bag.’ I go to a lot of events, but during the daytime I’m working. I was thinking about a bag that I can use for nighttime and daytime and that is why he designed a bag for me that is very versatile. His clients are Hermès owners, or people who have bought a lot of different bags and they are kind of bored and now they want something bespoke. Ethan’s family had tannery at the back of their home, so he has the experience of doing a bag in crocodile skin that is boutique too.

Bespoke ring made by anna hu

The Wendy Yu butterfly piece by Anna Hu

LUX: How did your love of fashion begin? You have an impressive evening gown collection – do you have a favourite dress?
Wendy Yu: My love for fashion began at very young age, when I was little I enjoyed playing with and collecting Barbie dolls, then I started to collect fashion magazines when I grew up. I love to be constantly surrounded by inspirations and creativity of all kinds. In terms of my favorite dresses; I have two. Mary Katrantzou recently did a bespoke gown for me to open the exhibition ‘Creatures and Creation’ at the Waddesdon Manor. Anna Hu also did a bespoke ring for me and named it a Wendy Yu butterfly piece. Mary did the dress in ten days – can you imagine? We did the last-minute stitching on site. The other one is Giambattista Valli – he did two bespoke gowns for me when I did an international debutante ball in New York. He did it in about three weeks. I am really into dreamy, crazy gowns!

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Reading time: 14 min
Mexico city shoppping street
Joe Sitt interview

Joe Sitt, President and CEO of Thor Equities

Joseph Sitt, President and CEO of Thor Equities, sits atop a luxury property, retail and advisory empire that straddles the western hemisphere. His company owns and develops prime retail property throughout the US, as well as Latin America and Europe. The portfolio and development pipeline of the New York-based company, which he founded in 1986, is in excess of US $18bn.

He is also known as something of a luxury visionary: unlike many property companies, his firms (he also runs Thor Retail Advisors, a leading retail agent and consultant; and others) work closely with fashion and luxury brands to ‘place make’, transforming the areas they are based in. Like LUX, he also believes in mixing high luxury with creative emerging brands to create an atmosphere of discovery as well as indulgence. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai caught up with Sitt on one of his whirlwind visits to London about the rise of LA, Mexico, and the future of luxury retail.

LUX: Tell me about the rise of LA as a destination.
Joe Sitt: There is physically no more room in San Francisco for office space and for homes, for rental buildings and retail. So, much of that industry is migrating to LA because it’s also on the coast and it’s got better weather. It’s also got more culture and things happening, so there is a lot of migration there, and a lot of wealth being created in LA. And you are getting a lot of second home owners (from the San Francisco area) who are buying in LA.

Between the businesses migrating their technology and the second home owners there, the revitalisation and reactivation in LA is tremendous. You can see also that new restaurants are incredibly successful. And it’s not just coming into LA proper. It’s also coming from down below for example into Santa Monica and Venice Beach. You have tech companies like Snapchat whose headquarters are based over there.

The other aspect of it is the creative industries in LA. Some real fashion is coming out of there for the first time in quite a while. Secondly, the movie industry. For the first time the movie making business is a real profitable business for film makers, writers – salaries are going up tremendously for all of them and for anybody affiliated with the industry.

The tech industry has so much wealth and power and it has the “funny money”, because their stock prices are so high; for example the FANGs – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google – their stock prices are so high that they are throwing money very aggressively at almost anything. And that is crossing with the fact that the biggest thing that all of those tech companies need, and that they don’t have the ability to do within their tech shops, is actually content.

So now what you have is, if someone is making movies in LA you actually have a shot at a bidding war between Amazon, Netflix, etc. Even Snapchat have announced that they want to be buying and delivering content. That’s creating a really exciting time for the LA market for the people in all forms of the creative industry. A combination of wealth and creatives.

LUX: And in parallel the visual arts has revived there in the last 10 years.
Joe Sitt: Yes. For example, my friends at the [Helly] Nahmad gallery, who are the largest owners of Picassos in the world, now see how many people are coming from the West Coast to consume their products in New York. So they are opening their third outpost: they’ve got London, New York and are now looking to the West Coast. You’ve got [Larry] Gagosian who’s got his New York Gallery, he sees where the zip codes are where he’s shipping his product to. So while people are opening up shop in San Francisco, to get to the wealth proper a lot of them are really looking to the arts district in LA.

Read next: Japanese restaurant, Sake No Hana brings blossoms to Europe 

LUX: Do you see the emergence, despite Donald Trump, of LA and Mexico emerging as one entwined retail and luxury zone?
Joe Sitt: Very much so. I look at Mexico as a big new frontier in luxury fashion. A tremendous amount of wealth has been created in that country. In terms of those people who think that Donald Trump’s policies are going to hurt Mexico…I will throw you a curveball and show you how he’s actually getting the opposite result from what people think would happen and perhaps what he intended. I will give you two examples.

One, is in terms of the border in terms of trade as well as in in terms of immigration and how they actually play out. Sometimes when you shoot a bullet when it comes to policy you don’t know who the victim is going to be. The trade announcement forced a tremendous amount of devaluation in the Mexican Peso. The Peso went from around ten pesos to the dollar ten years ago to twenty two recently; so about half. The net result of doing that was making Mexico as a country and as an exporter more competitive.

As a result of making them more competitive from their currency it increased America’s trade deficit with Mexico dramatically over the last quarter. The opposite of what everyone expected to happen in that first quarter. The second thing that occurred with regard to the second policy, immigration, also had an unintended consequence; which is as a result of being tighter on the border for immigration, US companies have started to create tech centres in Mexico. In Guadalajara, and in Tijuana for those companies in San Diego who just want to be able to cross the border and travel 45 minutes to their foreign teams.

So now you’ve seen an incredible resurgence of business and activity in both Guadalajara and Tijuana in Mexico for the tech industry as a result of those tough policies. It’s a place so close to the United States and you can house all of the greatest foreign minds in the world.

Mexico city shoppping street

The Ferragamo store on Masaryk street in Mexico City

LUX: Mexico has been seen as an outlier in terms of luxury retail.
Joe Sitt: It takes time for a market to react to some of things I’ve mentioned. It’s now waking up. I feel that the entire luxury market has been sleeping at the wheel regarding the Mexico opportunity. And so now they are just waking up to it. Those who are waking up to it are finding success in the market place. But it takes time for them to mobilise.

LUX: Can you tell us your vision for what you’re doing there, because it’s a long term play.
Joe Sitt: We are attacking it from multiple prongs. One of course is just bringing luxury retail there, and creating a platform for it to come to, for the first time. We sparked the revitalisation a street called Masaryk and in an area called Polanco, in the heart of Mexico City. In the old days it was an Upper East Side kind of marketplace that was starting to become abandoned and is now revitalised.

LUX: And is that now going to be the Rue St Honoré of Mexico?
Joe Sitt: Yes exactly right. You’re starting to see it. Hermès, Ferragamo, Gucci and Goyard just opened there. So you’ve got some great brands already.

LUX: Was this through you?
Joe Sitt: We were the spark that brought it all together.

Thom Sweeney

Thom Sweeney SS17

LUX: Integrating investment in emerging fashion brands and developing districts seems pretty for a property company. What’s behind it?
Joe Sitt: Candidly, it’s more of a passion. Yes, there are financial benefits of being on the ground floor of some of the most exciting brands and investing with them or representing and aiding them. Yes, there will be financial reward, probably in years to come when a Thom Sweeney explodes and goes next level or a Drakes or an Edward Green or a Maison Bonnet. But for me, more than anything else, at this stage in my career I am looking for things that I enjoy personally. And I enjoy young and exciting luxury brands and helping them achieve their potential. I get my personal thrill vicariously through their success.

Read next: Labassa Wolfe on the contemporary tailoring experience

LUX: Is your ideal scenario that they grow up to be the next Moynat, Vuitton, Hermès?
Joe Sitt: In some cases yes, in some cases no. For some, Maison Bonnet, the eyeglasses company, we are going to help them make the move from Paris’s first and only little artisan shop to executing in London. It’s about growing the business but not necessarily overgrowth or creating a Goliath.

LUX: And is the long term that you are buying, building and selling them?
Joe Sitt: I have to be careful in terms of conflict so I can’t say which ones I invest in. Other than to say when I do make investments in them I am focused on very very long term. It’s not to buy and sell. It will go wherever the visionary wants to take it, who’s owning the business, will we ride with this vision. In terms of our advisory business, our goal for these companies is to help them reach whatever their potential is, or is meant to be. Some of them it’s meant to be a very large business, some of them it’s not. We do the same thing with tech related businesses. I mentioned Warby Parker [an eyewear company], we were with them from the start, opening all of their first locations. Helping them understand the challenges of physical retailing versus internet retailing.

LUX: You are a property person. But is retail moving online?
Joe Sitt: There will be challenges in terms of distribution for people to buy things online for many years to come. And buying direct is not a new invention. We had catalogue prior, it was just a different medium for doing it. Someone would get the catalogue to their house and then they would order by telephone; or later order through emaiI. I look at online as another modem to deliver a product to a consumer. When it comes to commodities, it’s easy enough push a button and buy it on the internet. But does the internet mean that Nike should not open up more stores? We’ve found the opposite. I worked with Nike in New York, myself and a partner, for the first flagship store in Soho on the corner of Spring Street and Broadway. They are doing two incredible flagships that are costing them mega millions of dollars to build. Why are they doing that in the year 2017 with all the talk of tech and internet sales? Because they realise for a brand, it works arm in arm. People want the experience of a brand. The same way people are talking about restaurants and experience and enjoying that aspect of it, it’s the same thing when it comes to a brand. I want to go to Nike and not just see pictures on the internet. I want to touch the product, I want to try it on I want to interact with it.

Maison Bonnet

Maison Bonnet’s Palais Royal Salon in Paris. Image by JYLSC

LUX: You have done some transformative retail schemes over the years. What are the challenges when you have an area like this that has got great potential but you need to change things? Do you get resistance?
Joe Sitt: There is always resistance. I always say that the secret to knowing when a project is going to be great is the greater amount of resistance. We enjoy both. We like doing things in established high profile tourist destinations as well as cool emerging areas like Wynwood in Miami, Venice Beach in California, and all of these creative markets all over the world that we think need and deserve luxury exposure as well.

Read next: Luxury in the foothills of the Himalayas

LUX: Do you think that monolithic luxury malls as are opening in China and elsewhere, where everything is a luxury brand and nothing else, will change? Will people want more of a mix in there?
Joe Sitt: Yes. That’s boring. Even if it’s great luxury brands it’s not what the consumer wants. As a consumer it gets more and more sophisticated. You see that in their taste they want something that is more eclectic.

LUX: A bit of discovery?
Joe Sitt: Yes. It could be restaurant discoveries, specialty shops, boutiques, perfumeries, candle shops etc. Intermixed with the luxury brands and that’s what creates the most successful environment for a luxury brand.

LUX: What’s the most exciting area of luxury and fashion for you?
Joe Sitt: Menswear is so exciting, much more exciting than womenswear, still very much an untapped market, with brands we’ve referred to today, Thom Sweeney for example, in years to come that could explode. I think that food, F&B, restaurants etc. have tremendous potential. Look at a market like London, if you were here 15 years ago the restaurant scene was horrific. It’s come along light years. I think other markets are going to expand to a much greater degree.

Last, but certainly not least is destination. I think people are remaking what the word ‘resort’ is, as hospitality and a destination. I think people are stating to get really creative. People crave creative.

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Reading time: 11 min
ferrari test
ferrari test

The two Maranellos together (Photo: Laetitia Sanai)

The Ferrari 550 Maranello and its successor, the similar-but-different 575M Maranello, are becoming two of the most sought-after cars of the ‘modern classic’ era. Rakish two-seaters with V12 engines, they also divide opinion among collectors as to which of them is best. Now, 20 years after the 550 Maranello was first unveiled to rapturous reviews, LUX takes both of these beautifully svelte Ferraris out for some spirited driving and comes out with a surprisingly unequivocal answer.

There are few things more inspirational, to collectors of classic cars, than Ferraris hosting V12 engines. Any car person will become dreamy at the mention of a 275 GTB or Daytona from the 1960s; cars that combined race heritage with beauty and an engine whose functioning and sound is worthy of an installation at MOMA.

Ferrari still makes cars in this lineage, the latest being the 812 Superfast, an even faster successor to its F12 model, itself a car so rapid that to extend it and enjoy it you would, within a couple of seconds, be so in excess of a speed limit in almost every country in the world that you would be risking a jail sentence.

Like some of the proudest global dynasties, this V12 line had its reign rudely interrupted before being restored to the monarchy. In the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, Ferrari instead made cars with a flat-V12 engine (a detail that refers to the arrangement of cylinders in relation to each other, important for car geeks), which was placed behind the driver and passenger; these included the famous Berlinetta Boxer and Testarossa, and the limited-edition, lightweight (and now highly collectible) F512M).

It was only in 1997 that the company continued where it left off with the Daytona of 1968, and replaced the F512M with the 550 Maranello, a car so different it shared only its available paint colours with its predecessor, and whose design – (new) V12 engine under a long bonnet in front, space for two people behind – resembled its deposed ancestor.

The 1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello, in classic Rosso Corsa (racing red)

The 550 was itself replaced by the 575M in 2002 which (pay attention at the back) was a modified version of the same car – an evolution not a revolution – and looked so similar from the outside that even experts have trouble telling them apart. (There were greater changes inside and under the bonnet, as outlined below). In 2006, the 575M was itself replaced by an all-new car, the 599 Fiorano, with a different V12, still under a long bonnet in front.

And – for those general readers still with us – this is the rub. The Maranellos, as the 550 and 575 were called, represented a singular era in Ferrari history. The cars that preceded them were, as outlined above, very different in every way; and their successors, the 599, F12 and today’s 812 Superfast, are also very different: faster, but also much more aggressive, with hair-trigger handling meaning they demand to be driven at high-speed all the time, and feel listless and a little dull if they are not.

Ferrari Maranello 575

The rare gated gearshift on the Ferrari 575M Maranello

The Maranellos, meanwhile, had a laid-back demeanour that fooled purchasers into thinking they were relaxed cruising cars – until they tried driving them at high speed, and realised they were every inch a thoroughbred Ferrari. This dual personality is unique among Ferraris, and the cars are now appreciating in value as connoisseurs recognise this.

To give additional spice to the collectability of these ‘modern classics’, the 550 was the last Ferrari to be made only featuring a metal gated manual gearshift. This may not sound significant, but every Ferrari made now is only available with a F1-style ‘paddleshift’, with no clutch pedal or gearlever; and so the beautiful metal gated gearshift has become a desirable element of many collectable Ferraris. The 575, meanwhile, was generally promoted with its F1-style gearshift, and of around 2000 examples made, only 246 were ‘proper’ old-fashioned manuals; and of these, only 69 were right hand drive examples for the UK, making them seriously collectable.

Read next: Why you should buy a modern classic car

Sibling rivalry 

The 550 received rave reviews from the motoring media from the outset, appearing so much more modern and sophisticated than its F512M predecessor. (Ironically, it is the quirky design and single-minded racy focus of the rarer F512M, of which LUX also owns an example, that have made its value whiz upwards far beyond those of the also-appreciating Maranellos, in recent years). When the 575M came out in 2002, it received a more mixed reception. More powerful, with a bigger engine, extensive modifications underneath, and more luxurious inside, it was nonetheless criticised by some for being a little too comfortable and soft – not enough of a Ferrari. Critics and purchasers rapidly realised that the addition of the factory-optional ‘Fiorano Handling Pack’, aimed at racetrack driving, righted things for the 575, as did a series of Ferrari’s own subtle modifications over ensuing months.

Still, though, the reputational damage, slight though it was, was done. A cloud hung over the 575, based on the initial reviews of it being too ‘soft’. Supporters of the 575 ever since have claimed that this is entirely unfair, and that the 575 is newer, faster, better and, with the ‘Fiorano Pack’, also racier than the 550; while supporters of the 550 say the original car is better and that Ferrari’s modifications simply clouded what had been a perfect machine.

The debate is muddied further by the gearchange developments. A tiny minority of 575s were sold with gearlever manual transmissions similar to the 550s, meaning it was very hard to compare like-for-like: a typical 575 with F1 paddleshift transmission and no Fiorano Pack was a different beast indeed to a typical 550.

Solving the debate: 550 v 575M Manual Fiorano Handling Pack

LUX is fortunate enough to own a beautiful example of a 550 Maranello from 1997, and a 575M Maranello, manual, from 2004. Both were purchased for their collectability, and for the joy they should impart in driving. And this offers us an almost unique opportunity to resolve, without bias, the question once and for all: is a manual 575M Maranello, with the coveted Fiorano Handling Pack, a better car than a 550, or is it too close to call? We took both cars out this spring to find out. First, our criteria: this was not about which car was faster (the 575M should be, by dint of 30 extra horsepower and a bigger engine), or more fun around a track (we didn’t actually take them to a track, though we did create an approximation of one out of some empty roads – responsibly, of course). It’s about which is a better all round V12 Ferrari, with a combination of performance, presence, handling, comfort and general brilliance.

The 550 Maranello

We purchased our 550 Maranello in its homeland, a couple of years ago. Prices had started to rise, and we were on the lookout for an excellent example of this model. A very low mileage example popped up on an Italian car website and, acting fast, we flew over and purchased it, as documented here in GQ magazine. The car had been kept in a showroom for ten years, and needed some fettling, admirably carried out back in the UK by The Ferrari Centre in Kent, to go as well as its museum-piece looks suggested.

The 550 Maranello’s “gills” hark back to Ferrari’s supercars of the 1960s

The shape of the 550 was a stark contrast to that of its predecessors when it came out; in retrospect, like the greatest designs, it was ahead of its time with its understated angles, and the harbinger of a new era. While it’s not as beautiful as the most gorgeous Ferraris, it has aged beautifully and now gains the attention that, ironically, it didn’t do when it was new. Slim, svelte, sleek and minimal, it feels very grown up.

Drive the 550 down a busy highway and the initial feeling is…what is all the fuss about? The engine is quiet – so quiet, nobody takes note of it, so much quieter than almost every other Ferrari, that you feel a little short-changed. This is a near-legendary Ferrari, but in a quiet way.

Read next: The nostalgic pleasures of travelling by ferry

The car also doesn’t immediately speak to you through the steering wheel as you might expect it to. The power steering is light and easy, but rather over-light; when it was created, the emphasis was on creating a Ferrari that could be used every day, and the tradeoff now is that ease-of-use and refinement seems to trump sense of occasion. Only the bang, clang from the metal gearshifter gate tells you you are in something special.

The 550 has a more ‘classic’ interior layout

Out on the open road, though, things change, fast. Push the accelerator and the engine roars as it whisks into the upper end of its operating range; the car flies forward. Most wonderful is the way it goes around corners. It flows and flies through fast corners, and on tighter ones, encourages you to go ever faster. As you stretch it, it wakes up completely from its straight-line stupor, and surprises you utterly: the 550 comes alive, progressively communicating more as it careers around tight corners. Drive harder and it gets happier, fluidly and consistently letting you know where you are in its considerable range of abilities, encouraging you to steer around bends with the accelerator, faster, faster, tighter, pushing it around and out.

And then there is the most wonderful moment of all: when you are flying out of a curve and accelerating ever more, you have a sensation that the momentum is about to be with the back wheels, and not the front wheels. It’s as if the car has been created to tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Ciao. In a second, my rear wheels will start to slide, so, let’s have fun, ragazzo!’. Then they do so, and you flick the steering wheel and catch them, and tear on down the road.

All of this from a car that looks and feels, at low speeds, like a gentle cruiser. Spectacular.

Driving back to base, that feeling of a lack of feeling comes back again, though. At lower speeds the 550 is so quietly competent that it makes you a little restless. And while it feels very modern in many ways, it shows its age in the background noise generated by the body while travelling at speed on the highway.

The 575M Maranello Manual 

The 575 has its rev counter centred

Sit inside the 575 and, unlike the view from outside, the contrast with the 550 is immediate. The dashboard is updated: the 550 has three dials at eye level towards the centre, while in the 575 your view is dominated by a big rev counter. The leather and materials are of a higher standard, and the whole experience feels more luxurious, while distinctly similar.

Anyone expecting Ferrari to have upgraded the aural experience – the only real criticism of these cars – would be disappointed, as the 575 is as quiet as the 550 at slow speeds. I felt myself yearning for a V12 howl, rather than the smooth hiss of the engine in front; but the 575 is almost indistinguishable from the 550 in this way. It’s a very understated car.

In other matters, though, considerable progress is evident. The most prominent of which is the steering: it has far better weight, and more feel, than that of its sibling. While it doesn’t communicate like Ferraris did before power steering, it gives you a firm, meaty sense of exactly where the front wheels are pointing and what they are coming into contact with. This improved steering was part of the Fiorano Handling Package. The accelerator also has a more immediate response; meanwhile the gearchange is similarly satisfying. I tried to find a difference between these two delicious metal gated gearboxes, and if pushed I would say the 575 feels even more metallic and mechanical, but that’s probably quite moot.

The 575’s handling is also quite different. With the Fiorano Pack, aimed, according to Ferrari, at racetrack driving, I expected it to be altogether harder and stiffer than the 550, but that’s not quite the case. The first impression is completely the opposite. At very low speeds, over a speed hump, for example, the 575 has a slight but distinct return on its springs: where the 550 goes up over the hump and down, the 575 goes up, down, bounces back up again almost imperceptibly, and settles. One tiny extra movement. (All the Fiorano Pack 575s I have driven do this; and it’s not something you notice until you drive it alongside the 550.)

On the road, in a corner, this translates into a slight but definite bit of lean into a bend, then, as if the system is flexing its muscles, the ride turns flat and the car gets stiffer as you corner harder, both into and out of the corner. The 550, by contrast, felt simpler and more fluid.

At higher speeds through corners, the 575 is flatter, stiffer, and feels stronger than the 550, but if you are linking together a series of S bends, the 550 feels like it is making less effort – in a good way. It almost feels lighter, which it isn’t.

Ferrari F575

The 2004 Ferrari 575M Maranello was an evolution – but was it an improvement?

Push harder, and the 575 sticks to the road better than the 550; it leans less at the limit. It’s also noticeably faster, as you make the engine fly: those 30 extra horses, and the extra 250cc of engine capacity, really are noticeable. It makes for a car that is both speedier and more satisfying than the 550 to drive at medium-high speeds, although if you are in a situation where you are making the rear wheels drift out of a corner, the 550 can be caught more cleanly, and feels more simple and playful.

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On a long drive, more advantages of the 575 become clear. It rides better, even with the Fiorano Pack, and the body creates less background noise. It feels more settled than the 550, more sophisticated. It’s really the steering, though, that is the killer winning factor: whether cruising down a straight highway or into a series of curves, the excellent weight and good feel of the 575’s Fiorano Handling Package steering make it a satisfying, involving machine to drive, at times when the 550 feels like it is half asleep.

The Winner

Ferrari modern classic

Red brake calipers can denote racing suspension pack

We thought this would be a difficult, entirely subjective battle. But in the end, the 575’s one significant advantage over the 550 – the steering – plus the numerous small improvements in performance, ride, refinement, interior quality and sophistication, cancel out the 550’s trump card, its joy at the limits of handling. If you are buying a car to drive at its limits every day, then perhaps this trump card would be the killer app to swing your modern classic decision towards the 550. We also think that, from the outside, the 550 looks just a little cleaner and better. But overall, as a Ferrari for fast, real-world driving, combining speed, luxury, handling, refinement and utter aristo-Italian factor, the 575M manual with Fiorano Handling Pack beats the 550, and by a quite distinct margin. With only 69 made like ours, it’s also a true modern classic.

FOOTNOTE: Party Pooper? 

The Maranellos were succeeded by the 599 Fiorano, which sported a massive increase in power and technology; it heralded a new type of hyperactive V12 from Ferrari. The 599 itself was replaced by the F12, much more powerful, lighter, more agile and much faster again.

But the predecessor to the Maranellos was such a different type of car, never to be made again by Ferrari, that it has gained a cult following and commands roughly twice the price of a 550 in the classic car market. The F512M (LUX owns one) was a two-seater with a lightweight 12 cylinder engine behind the driver’s head and a modified body from the legendary Testarossa. Impractical and loud (in every way), it was also much lighter than the Maranellos, to the extent that Ferrari itself admitted the F512M had better acceleration than the 550 that replaced it.

It also has the sense of occasion of an Italian countess arriving at a Roman ball. Every minute spent in a F512M is memorable, you can feel the machinery all around you, as well as the stares of passersby. It’s also wildly exciting on a twisty road, until a point, easily reached, when it’s just wild. The Maranellos are far better cars, but for sheer presence and occasion, their predecessor still has what it takes.

Acknowledgements:

No serious collector of investments of passion, be they mechanical watches or modern classic cars, can be so without the wise counsel of trusted professionals in the field. For the 575M Maranello, LUX would like to thank Joe Macari whose unrivalled knowledge and nous makes up London’s greatest Ferrari dealer and service specialist: Macari takes as much care over the service of a modern classic as he does over the restoration of a £10m unique classic.

The 550 Maranello resides in the hands of The Ferrari Centre in Kent, south of London whose owners, Roger and Claire Collingwood, are both ex-racing drivers and mechanics with a deep understanding of the cars and the market: they both own modern classic Ferraris as their everyday cars.

Anyone researching or owning a Maranello will find the Ferrarichat board an invaluable resource; technicians, owners, dealers and others offer fellow members a formidable knowledge-bank.

Passion is the essential element for an investment of passion, and we share just a little bit of all of theirs.

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Reading time: 15 min
Modern classic cars
Modern classic cars

The 1997 Ferrari F50, of which only 349 were made. Image courtesy of Ferrari S.p.A.

Classic cars are, for a new generation of luxury collectors, something of a conundrum. On the one hand, they are perhaps the ultimate ‘investment of passion’, objects which you can cherish and use, and which nonetheless gain value over time. On the other hand, for some people the idea of a classic car conjures up an unappetising image of an ancient, uncomfortable contraption sitting broken down by the roadside, leaking unidentified fluid, while people of today breeze past in Teslas or in the back of their Uber.

And I sympathise with both sides. With all the opportunities afforded by digitization, internationalisation, and a connected world – developments I see as almost entirely positive – who now has time to spend their Sunday mornings trying to fiddle around with a vehicle that, even when running properly, has no air conditioning, no connectivity, and is slower and noisier than the average contemporary people carrier?

And yet…the greatest cars are a combination of art, engineering, and, for those who enjoy driving, enjoyment beyond what many of the hi-tech vehicles of today can offer. Today’s new car market offers dozens of cars that can exceed 150 mph, and post breathtaking times on racetracks, but most do this so competently that the joy of driving has turned into something akin to a dull feeling of being driven. And this will only accentuate as people increasingly are driven, by self-driving machines.

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All of this has been postulated as a reason behind the rise of what has been dubbed the ‘modern classic’ collector’s car market, a term that your author helped bring into the mainstream back when this development was in its nascence a few years ago. The term encompasses cars that are as rapid, comfortable and reliable as most contemporary cars, but, through either quirks of engineering or having been manufactured at the point where the old classic car era turned into the new, are as enjoyable as the older ones.

Ferrari modern classic car

The 1995 Ferrari F512M, of which only 501 were made. Image courtesy of Ferrari S.p.A.

A word of warning though. The ‘modern classic’ has been adopted by marketeers and average car dealers, to the extent that it is now turning meaningless and being used as a cover for almost any used car of the past two decades. Most of the ‘modern classics’ so dubbed at today’s auctions are nothing of the kind. To have collectability, the criteria for a modern classic are the same as for anything collectable: they have to have been made in limited numbers, be special in some way (via brand, or history), and be genuinely desirable. A Ferrari F50 (349 made) or F512M (501 made) from the 1990s is a modern classic; a Ferrari 360 (more than 15,000 made) is likely not. (Full disclosure: there is a F512M in my stable). Production numbers are partly, but not wholly, responsible for this distinction.

Does all of this signal the end of the era of the traditional ‘classic car’, with its quirky, hand-beaten body panels, tiny production quantities, and 1950s and 60s design quirks? The obvious answer is of course not: assuming you could find them, you could buy seven or eight of my 1995 Ferrari F512Ms for the price of a single 1969 Ferrari Daytona Spider, or 365 GTS/4 to give it its correct nomenclature. (I use Ferraris as a reference partly because they are the most significant brand in car collecting, and partly because I am most familiar with them.) The most expensive cars ever sold are still those (mainly Ferraris) from the 1950s and 1960s.

But real modern classics are gaining in value fast. Certain Porsches of the 1990s have overtaken the prices of all but the rarest of their siblings from the 1960s, and some 1990s cars, like the McLaren F1, are now selling for more than ten million (pounds, euros, or dollars). Even relatively common but collectible Ferraris, like the 1997 550 Maranello (around 3000 made), have trebled in price over the past four years.

Investment classic cars

McLaren F1 GTR

Whether they will continue to make ground is a question in the mind of collectors – although it tends to get blown out of my mind when I am driving at full speed in any of my Ferraris, as they are of the era when total concentration is required of a driver at any speed, which is a key part of their appeal. One the one hand, there is plenty of evidence that Millennials and Generation Y are less interested in cars: as LUX Contributing Editor and columnist Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of LVMH Watch & Jewellery told me, “teenagers do not wear watches and they do not buy cars”. (Biver is himself a significant collector of what he would call ‘real classics from the pre-electronic era’, including a gorgeous 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, worth multimillions). There is also an argument to say that the younger generation of purchaser is only interested in the newest, most connected cars. I broadly call these the obsolescence argument and the antiques argument: either collectible cars will become like fax machines, entirely redundant; or they will become like antique furniture, out of fashion.

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There is also the view that the current spike in prices for all these cars is due to money chasing after investments in an era of low interest rates, which will inevitably change.

I don’t know. These are probably correct for the vast majority of self-proclaimed ‘modern classics’ which are neither as cool as the real classics which preceded them, or as good as the cars of today. But when I am out in my cars, there is no shortage of young people taking selfies or videoing the car, and many of my spectators are, in time-honoured tradition, small boys dreaming of fast cars who one day will grow up to be purchasers of the car they admired in their youth. Uber, Tesla, and regulations restricting the use of cars in cities can only do so much. And while fax machines and 19th century desk bureaux may be worthless today, try telling your art dealer that a Da Vinci or a Monet is now worthless because of the demand for Jeff Koons.

Which is why I am continuing to acquire modern classic cars – the right ones. And why you will be reading, in LUX, some detailed articles on this most exciting of ‘investments of passion’.

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Reading time: 5 min
By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

Starting on Friday November 25, around 480 supercars and classics will be up for sale in Milan at the RM Sotheby’s Duemila Route (“two thousand wheels”) auction. But it’s not the just the quantity of stock or the lack of a reserve that has excited collectors and dealers from around the world: it’s the quality and variety of the collection.

From a single owner whose business assets were seized by the Italian government, the sale is of a connoisseur’s collection of some of the most exciting and prized cars of the past 40 years, including a phenomenal selection of the hottest market category right now, so-called “modern classics”. The collection is short on the prewar Bentleys and 1950s Jaguars that might have made up a classic collection in the past; instead, it features some of the hottest cars of the modern era.

Read next: Mercedes-Benz launches new book with Condé Nast

The star of the show may be a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6c Alloy, estimated at more than 2.5 million euros (although, hypothetically, if nobody else bids, it could be yours for a fraction of that). However much of the attention has been focused on more modern cars. These include one of a handful of Ferrari 599 Fioranos made with a manual transmission instead of the much more common paddle-shift; a rare Ferrari 575 Maranello with the same transmission; two Porsche 911 GT2s from the ‘996’ model designation, considered the last of the raw driving experience Porsches; a Ferrari F512M, the final, rarest, most powerful and desirable of the Testarossa series of the 1980s and 1990s; and many more, including rally cars from Lancia, a desirable ‘plexi’ Ferrari Daytona, and a 25th Anniversary edition of the legendary Lamborghini Countach, designed by Horacio Pagani, who later went on to found the Pagani supercar brand.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”7″ gal_title=”rm sothebys”]

The collection of the unfortunate, bankrupted collector was as broad as it is deep, with cars for fans of every marque and at every price level: if fast BMWs are your thing, there is a brace of original BMW M3s, a M635 CSi and an original M Coupe. There are Porsches from 1970 to 2007 (a 997 GT3 RS).

Read next: Salvatore Ferragamo on Tuscan indulgence

“It’s an extraordinary selection – there is every Porsche 911 you can imagine, for example,” says Alain Squindo, COO of RM Sothebys. “It was amassed relatively discreetly, the collection was not known about before. What’s particularly interesting about this auction is that it highlights what’s particularly appealing to new collectors, 30 and 40 year olds coming into the car world. They are not interested in prewar grand sedans: instead we have sporting high performance stuff, Porsche 911s, Lancia Integrales, Alfas, Astons, thrilling high horsepower stuff.” It’s the sheer quantity that fascinates, he points out: there are two fibreglass Ferrari 308s, four Ferrari Testarossas (all red).

Squindo says most of the cars are “cosmetically pristine” while emphasising that RM Sotheby’s hasn’t had time to inspect them all and that bidders need to look carefully at the particulars in the catalogue. If your newly acquired Ferrari 400i doesn’t work, there’s no comeback.

Still, for a collector of modern classics, the atmosphere will be of a child in a sweetshop. The world’s biggest sweetshop. Just don’t get carried away. Now, I’m going to look at one of those Ferraris…

rmsothebys.com/tv16/duemila-ruote/

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Reading time: 2 min
Joe Macari is one of the most renowned names in the classic car business, his showroom in London a wonderland of racing cars, supercars and hypercars of all eras, plus the occasional dalek. A racing driver and car nut himself who spends much of his time crisscrossing the world to secure multimillion dollar deals on automotive rarities, Macari has high net worth customers all over the globe and cuts a flamboyant figure commuting to work in his $3m 1960s Ferrari Daytona Spider, cigarette firmly planted in mouth. Macari also has an official Ferrari and Maserati servicing workshop, and was recently appointed an Approved Ferrari pre-owned dealer. For our Luxury Leaders series he speaks to Darius Sanai about his maverick reputation, Brexit, and the hottest cars to buy now.
Joe Macari Ferrari dealer showroom

The Joe Macari Showroom. Image by Dylan Morris

LUX: How is the classic car sales business? Are modern classics important, or just incidental?
Joe Macari: I would argue that the classic car business is as strong as it has ever been! classic cars are now, more than ever, seen as a very strong alternative asset class, with a series of incredibly strong auction results proving that people are willing to pay good money for good cars.

LUX: Is the younger generation as passionate about the mechanics of cars as the older, and is that a problem?
Joe Macari: I think that there will always be a huge proportion of young people who take a keen interest in mechanics, it’s a timeless interest that evolves with the leaps and bounds technology takes over the course of time. I don’t think we’re in any danger of experiencing a shortage of petrol-head technicians any time soon.

Read next: LUX test drives the Rolls Royce Wraith

LUX: Are people more or less into racing than they were when you started out?
Joe Macari: I think racing has become more popular and accessible. F1 has obviously changed massively over the last few years, and my perception is that the changes have led to a migration of sorts. People seem to be more and more interested in events like Goodwood Revival and other classic car racing events in order for them to get their fix of unadulterated, noisy, raw racing.

LUX: How has the typical buyer changed over the decades?
Joe Macari: Certain areas of the world have changed tastes over the years. For example, the Middle East is really waking up to how investable the classic car market is. Obviously there have always been a number of collectors from the Middle East who have sought after classic cars, but there seems to be a broadening in the consumer demographic. Ultimately though, the buyers haven’t changed a great deal. Every single person who buys anything from me shares a burning passion, one I quite obviously hold very dearly, and have used their passion to drive themselves to a level of success whereby they are in a position to buy into their dream. Very few industries share that trait.

LUX: What is hot in the market right now?
Joe Macari: Ferrari are the pinnacle of the classic car market, almost every variant of the 250 sits at over £1m. The Testarossa (particularly the Monospecchio) and the 206/246 Dino are two cars that are picking up value very quickly. Anything limited Edition from Ferrari tends be a safe investment; the 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo, Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia, 599 GTO, LaFerrari and F12 TDF’s have all picked up value hugely from their list price and seem to be continuing to rise in value.

Read next: Motoring with Jude Law

LUX: Is the classic car market overheated?
Joe Macari: Not in my opinion, were that to be the case we’d be seeing average cars sell for huge money and a quick browse of recent Auction Results will show you that people hold provenance and condition of the cars in high regard. If a car has very obvious flaws, it won’t make money. If a car has questionable history, it won’t sell.
If we ever reach a point where very obviously terrible cars are being sold for far more than they’re worth, then there would be cause for concern, but until then I firmly believe the market to be the healthiest it’s ever been.

img_5453

Left to right: Joe Macari & Tom Kristensen after their win at Goodwood Revival. Image by Andrew Gill

LUX: Some 1950s and 60s Ferraris sell for multimillions. Will the newer ones ever do so (even the limited editions)?
Joe Macari: Undoubtedly so, it all boils down to the relationship between supply and demand. The supply of past-generation Ferraris remains fixed, however as the younger generation reaches financial maturity the demand for these cars increases, resulting in rising price. We saw a LaFerrari  sell for $4.7m at Pebble Beach in August, who knows where they’ll be in 10 years time!

LUX: Do people really buy the cars they hankered after when they were kids – does that mean the 50s and 60s cars will drop in price as their owners get old/pass away?
Joe Macari: Not at all! The value these cars have accrued has given them serious kudos amongst the younger generation, I can’t conceive of a time when a 250 GTO or California Spyder are seen as “just another old Ferrari”, they are primarily works of art, and much like art they will continue to cause a reaction and be desired by many.

Read next: Rustic luxury on the coast of Devon

LUX: What gives you the greatest pleasure in your business?
Joe Macari: Witnessing the transformation a car goes through during restoration. We take a car in average condition at best and pour our blood, sweat and tears into making it as beautiful as it was the day it rolled off the production line. I can think of few feelings as totally satisfying as seeing a customer’s face when they see their “new” car for the first time.

LUX: What makes you most frustrated?
Joe Macari: Potential not being utilized to its fullest extent. When someone isn’t doing as good a job as I know they’re capable of doing I get very frustrated. I don’t tolerate carelessness because in my mind the only reason one gets involved in the motor industry is because they have a passion for it, if you aren’t working at your best then you’re clearly not passionate about it.

Porsche Carrera RS pictured in Joe Macari showroom

A Porsche Carrera RS. Image by Dylan Morris

LUX: Do you purchase many cars and hold them back before selling? What car would you like to purchase for your business, that you haven’t done already?
Joe Macari: The only reason that would happen is if we’re planning on restoring a vehicle, we have storage with a number of cars in varying stages of restoration but very rarely, if ever, would we buy a car simply to hold it off market and then sell it at a later date as space is a very valuable commodity.

Read next: The MD of the Alpina Gstaad on modern luxury

LUX: What is the effect of Brexit on your business?
Joe Macari: I think we’ve been relatively fortunate, obviously we specialise in LHD (left hand drive) cars which means that due to the swaying currency our cars became cheaper for Europeans quite literally overnight. A large proportion of our clientele tends to be relatively immune to financial shocks, so the demand for high performance cars is still very much alive.

Ferrari Daytona Sypders pictured in the Joe Macari showroom

Four Ferrari Daytona Spyders. Image by Dylan Morris

LUX: Some years back you became an official Ferrari service centre, and now you are an official Ferrari approved used car dealer – is this significant and what does it mean?
Joe Macari: Above all else it bestows a huge sense of confidence onto our clients that we are supplying the absolute best product that we possibly can be. The fact that before we sell a car we’re able to perform Ferrari Approved Servicing and Sales Prep, as well as provide the customer with ongoing maintenance support, puts us in a position that very few other people find themselves in, and ultimately makes our business unique amongst a host of other very competitive businesses.

LUX: People refer to you as a maverick. What does that mean?
Joe Macari: I suppose people see the showroom and the service centre & imagine they’re run by someone in a suit; I think seeing me with greasy fingers and a cigarette in my hand comes across as a bit of a juxtaposition when in actual fact I like to lead from the front. I gain more pleasure from putting a car back together than pretty much anything else on earth, why would I turn my back on my roots?

Read next: A guide to drinking and dining in East London

LUX: You have good personal relationships with your big customers. Is that important?
Joe Macari: Relationships are without question the most important aspect of any business, anywhere. The friendships I have forged over my years in the industry are far more important than any deal I’ve ever done, the fact that people trust me enough to return to me for business is something I don’t take lightly, it spurs me on to maintain the standards I have become known for.

LUX: How do you secure the cars you want, when everyone wants them?
Joe Macari: By building relationships and gaining trust. Everyone knows that if they need a car, I can find it for them. They know that the car will undergo the highest possible level of scrutiny and ultimately I have cultivated an environment around me and my business whereby people selling through me know that they’re getting the best deal they possibly can. Everything lies in relationships and trust!

joemacari.com

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Reading time: 8 min

Adam Brett-Smith is managing director at one of the world’s most prestigious wine merchants, Corney & Barrow. The firm has unique and exclusive relationships with the world’s greatest wine producers including Chateau Petrus, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, and Salon champagne. As part of our Luxury Leaders series, he speaks to LUX about the evolving market, wine investors, and the world’s thriving wine culture.

Adam Brett-Smith at Corney & Barrow offices

Adam Brett-Smith

LUX: You represent the most prestigious domaines in the world, including DRC, Petrus and Salon . What is your secret?
Adam Brett-Smith: Belief. Belief in the producer and your ability to communicate that belief to the customer; truly, that is the heart of the matter.

Read next: Behind Hermes’ ancient ethos 

LUX: How do you choose who else to represent – where does the balance of power lie, with the merchant or the distributor?
Adam Brett-Smith: We try to take a Chateau or Domaine out of the big basket of other Chateaux or Domaines and put it on a pedestal so that customers can focus with an intensity and purity that general distribution cannot offer. Therefore, it is vital that you try and work with the finest examples of whatever country/region/area you are focussing on. We would prefer to be an inch wide and five miles deep than five miles wide and an inch deep.

As to where the balance of power lies, our best relationships – like the best deals – are equally good for all parties concerned, the customer, the Estate and Corney & Barrow. If that balance changes too radically, the relationship itself will be threatened.

Corney & Barrow offices on 1 Thomas More Street

Corney & Barrow head offices in London

LUX: Is London still a global wine hub?
Adam Brett-Smith: Unquestionably. The culture of trading, of restlessness, of expertise, of understanding is perhaps stronger now than ever before. Napoleon called us “une nation de boutiquiers,” (a nation of shopkeepers) I suspect he felt this was an insult, we took and still take it as a compliment.

Read next: The hottest new property in Knightsbridge

LUX: How has the fine wine trade changed over the past five years?
Adam Brett-Smith: A combination of small and or difficult vintages and a market that has been depressed through (largely) Bordeaux led pricing initiatives has meant that we are in a buyer’s market. I cannot see this lasting for much longer. It is about as good a time to buy as any I can remember.

LUX: How have consumers’ habits changed at the top end?
Adam Brett-Smith: I was asked by a highly respected guide to top private investors what my best investment advice would be to potential customers. My answer was brief. Start drinking.

There is a creeping malaise developing where customers are buying wine only if it increases in value. Drinking it is sometimes a secondary consideration or not even a consideration at all. Wine funds have sprouted like weeds as a result. I don’t think this is healthy and for this reason Corney & Barrow is one of the few companies to not have an investment vehicle. This, despite being lucky enough to list, a large number of them exclusively, some of the finest and most highly prized wines in the country. We do advise customers to buy a little more than they need to subsidise cellars. We call this justifying a pleasure on the grounds of practicality.

Read next: Inside Maserati’s Monte-Carlo pop-up suite

LUX: How has your company had to adapt?
Adam Brett-Smith: By increasing the already large number of tutored tastings/masterclasses/dinners in which good and great wines are consumed for pleasure by keeping even closer to customers. It works.

Wine Cellars

Corney & Barrow wine cellars in Ayr, Scotland

LUX: Your business comprised selling £30,000 cases of wine to collectors and running City wine bars packed with young guys drinking cheap drinks. How did you do both?
Adam Brett-Smith: We have just sold our bars business in a deal (see above) which was great for both parties. 25% of our business is to hotels and restaurants and the heart of our business – the private customer – spends a lot of money with us on everyday wines.

“Everybody needs a house Claret” and it’s true. Even the super-rich are unlikely to share their Petrus’ and Montrachet’s with their teenage children on a regular basis at any rate so we sell a lot of our Corney & Barrow labels to customers who are sometimes a little defensive about their prized cellars. These are seriously good wines and great value.

Read next: Fashion designer Emilia Wickstead on finding her niche in the market

LUX: What is your greatest fear, for your business?
Adam Brett-Smith: Apart from War, Pestilence and Famine?

In 1789, nine years after Corney & Barrow was founded the French Revolution  began thus depriving this fledgling company of its biggest source of supply for a generation…

History has therefore taught us a lot about survival. So apart from war, pestilence and famine my greatest fear is that the world of good and great wine will be smeared by well-meaning anti-alcohol lobbies who will turn us into an outlawed peddler of drugs… I am only half joking.

LUX: How do you relax?
Adam Brett-Smith: I get bored easily so I have probably far too many interests. In no particular order, family, reading, motorcycles, opera, ballet, cars…most of which are followed by wine!

LUX: What’s your Sunday evening casual tipple at home?
Adam Brett-Smith: A Dry Martini.

corneyandbarrow.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Auoportait: an oil on canvas by Erik Bulatov
The investment potential of the best art will just keep on increasing, says Simon de Pury, one of the world’s most renowned auctioneers, as art becomes ever more aligned with high luxury.
Portrait of world renowned art auctioneer, Simon de Pury

Simon de Pury

Art is the ultimate luxury. You don’t need it to live, which is a definition of a luxury. And in the past few years other similarities between the art market and the luxury market have emerged.

Ten years ago you would go to different – not luxurious – parts of town to see art. In New York you would go downtown; in London you would go east for certain exhibitions and galleries, for example. Now, though, in the art business you need to be very central for the same reasons as you do in the luxury market: it’s all about location, location, location. Thus the concentration of top galleries that are installing themselves in Mayfair in London, while in New York there is a return to the Upper East Side. There’s a lot of artistic activity focusing on these areas because when the international traveller comes to town, he stays in the heart of the city, goes to the top hotel and wants to have everything in an immediate circle, and wants to not have to waste too much time pursuing these passions. So all of that has had an impact, changing the market quite fundamentally. Galleries are now seeking real estate in the same locations as the top luxury brands.

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Art is also the ultimate luxury because you get emotionally involved, and if you go about it smartly it can be a very rewarding passion. Rewarding in every sense.

Image from Erik Bulatov at de Pury de Pury

Erik Bulatov, Rouge a Levres, 1994, pencil on paper

In concurrence with these developments, the art market is changing also. The market has become global, so for the first time you now have people from all parts of the world buying art from all parts of the world. Compare this to the Cold War, when some artists in the east had no idea what was happening in the west: you had artists working in total isolation. Today there is much easier access to knowledge and information about what is happening in different places through the digital revolution. And this has fuelled further internationalisation. You have biennials in Havana, Sydney, Shanghai, Venice and Istanbul. There is a now a great exchange of information and knowledge, and with knowledge comes a greater interest in acquiring.

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The information that used to be accessible to a small group of insiders is now much more easily and much more widely accessible. As a result, if you look at a list of the most affluent people in each country, 20 years ago there would have been a relatively small percentage of those who were collectors, whereas now if you look at the same lists, there’s a much bigger percentage collecting. And it’s also that which gives art the ultimate status. You can be a very successful businessman, yet it will never give you the same kind of kudos as you get when you are building a great collection. It’s your cultural achievements that leave your biggest mark and your imprint, and that is one reason why individual collectors in different parts of the world have become the main cultural movers and shakers – much more so than the main institutions.

Erik Bulatov autumn exhibition at de Pury de Pury

Erik Bulatov, Perestroika, 1989

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Nonetheless, there are factors any collector should be aware of. Your collection is your self-portrait. Collecting is an artistic, creative pursuit in itself. By collecting you show who you are and give yourself an identity. For that reason your collection cannot be put together by a committee: it has to be one person who takes the decision of what to buy and (just as important!) what not to buy. Equally, having a professional adviser who is very familiar with the market can help you avoid making mistakes and can help you to navigate the market, so it makes sense for people who have built substantial collections to have either in-house or external specialists that they consult. But even so, it is important that the person who is building the collection follows their own instincts. I often see people who start collecting becoming as knowledgeable as anyone else in the market.

There are questions of a market readjustment. Whenever the market becomes stronger and stronger there are always moments of readjustment. No market just goes vertically up without any fluctuations. And, of course, tastes evolve as well, so what is regarded today as the most desirable things may not be regarded as so in 50 years. Having said that, if you buy only the best quality you can only do well, because you can analyse it statistically from the 1850s onwards and see sufficient documentary evidence that the prices of major art transactions just keep going up. Still, there are some masters of the past – not just artists of our times – that we value much more highly today than 50 years ago. But be aware: there will always be artists who are like a fashion phenomenon – once the initial excitement dies down, so do the prices.

Simon de Pury is an art auctioneer and collector and the founder of de Pury de Pury. depurydepury.com

 

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Porsche_911_Turbo_Type_996

By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

Like art, fine wine and limited-edition watches, classic cars fall into the category of what luxury analysts call “Investments of Passion” – stuff you can enjoy while its value rises. But, leaving aside the question of potential returns, what motivates investors to buy particular assets?

One reason widely cited for the first boom in contemporary art prices, back in the 1980s, was that the new wealthy wanted to show they had earned their money themselves, and not inherited works, or tastes, from their parents.

A generation later, watch guru Jean-Claude Biver cited the same reasoning to me for the taste for contemporary and uber-complicated mechanical watches.

Fashions in fine wine wax and wane: Bordeaux, the materiel du jour just five years ago, is now as out of style as a hipster moustache.

Classic car dealers are fond of telling you that people collect the cars that featured in their bedroom wall posters when they were kids; thus the recent price rises in the likes of Ferrari Testarossas and Lamborghini Countaches, as Thatcher’s children come into serious money.

That’s true up to a point; the advertising creative directors pootling around in 1960s Porsches 911s were surely not born when their cars were.

As to my own Ferrari Testarossa, this was released to the world in a year (1984) when my bedroom posters featured The Clash and the only redhead I was interested in went to the girl’s school next to mine.

Still, one has to abide by cliché, and having acquired three fantastic Ferraris, it was time to target the dream car from earlier in my boyhood. The Porsche 911 Turbo seemed wonderfully glamorous to a small kid in drab 1979 London: a much-faster version of a car that was then a sports car for aficionados, not the daily transport it has now become.

911 Turbos have been made since 1973, and the challenge for anyone wanting to acquire an old, or rather, classic, one, is the slow discovery they are either very expensive, or slightly rubbish, or both. In my search earlier this year I sat inside numerous slightly musty 30-year-old cars, wondering what I was missing. The test drives were no better: old 911 Turbos had no performance at all til the boost arrived, and then what in 1983 was a warp-speed thump, is, in 2015, the acceleration of a fruitily-driven post-nightclub diesel cab which has been chipped. And for a price tag approaching six figures. Hmm.

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So, logic led me to a much newer Porsche 911 Turbo which I knew was brilliant, because I had reviewed it when it came out, and was also, by the perverse logic of the classic car market, much cheaper. If you imagine the value curve of classic cars over time describing a V-shape, the 996 model range of the 911, produced between 1998 and 2004, is currently near the bottom of the V.

The “996” model was tainted as a whole by the fact that it was the first 911 with a water-cooled (as opposed to air-cooled) engine, an engine which moreover, proved quite fragile.

But a growing clique of aficionados recently started noting publicly that the engine in the 996 Turbo was unrelated to that in its lesser siblings, and was both hugely reliable and had a racing pedigree. Known as the “Mezger” engine after its original designer, Hans Mezger, it was derived from a design for a Porsche Le Mans car, and is starting to become something of a motoring legend.

So – a brilliant Porsche 911 Turbo, at the bottom of its depreciation curve, with a Le Mans engine. A slam dunk.

The next challenge: finding a good one. Unlike Ferraris, Porsches tend to get driven, so Pistonheads was full of ads for cars with 80,000 miles, or “low mileage” ones with 50,000 miles. “Miles are important” was a mantra taught me by one of my car gurus (a man who has made more out of his car collection than most of us will make in several lifetimes). Low mileage on a Ferrari means less than 10,000 miles; on a Porsche, I decided, it means less than 20,000. And it had to be a manual, not a semi-automatic: I am convinced that as manuals are phased out, they will become ever more desirable.

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One day my eye was caught by a very striking newly-advertised car in Basalt Black, with only 17,000 miles, and a host of rather nice factory extras including a carbon-fibre driver zone and Porsche “ruffled leather” seats. It was being sold at a price higher than any other 996 Turbo, by JZM, a renowned specialist in Hertfordshire.

A quick sortie, inspection and drive indicated this was the car. It felt quasi-new, had a full wallet of Official Porsche history, and had plainly lived a pampered life in a garage – even the headlights showed no sign of cloudiness, a hazard of cars living outside. There was a little wriggle room on the price, and Russ Rosenthal, director of JZM, agreed to throw in various bits to make the car absolutely sublime.

One sunny Saturday morning I took the train up to King’s Langley – less glamorous than Barcelona and Rome, where I had bought my previous two Ferraris, but pleasant nonetheless – signed bits of paperwork in JZM’s pristine showroom, and was presented with a very shiny black 2004 Porsche 911 Turbo.

I have driven every recent incarnation of the 911 Turbo extensively, and going back to this model was both a shock and a revelation. What seemed at the time (just over a decade ago) to be an ultra-modern, slick 911 now seems pleasingly old-fashioned. Push it around a fast corner with a bump in the middle, and you are suddenly aware, despite the four-wheel drive, of being in a car for so long known as a ‘widowmaker’ due to its rear-engine exerting extreme centrifugal forces (and spinning the car around).

It’s fast, too – scarily fast at full throttle, full boost acceleration – and unlike the latest models, you can actually feel the road through the steering. It’s an exciting car but with comforts like heated seats, air conditioning and even sat nav.

With perfect timing, 996 Turbo prices have started to rise since I bought mine. I went back to Russ, told him I was writing this for LUX, and asked him for his thoughts. He, in turn, told me that the interest in high-end modern classic Porsches has been a boon for companies like his – they are building new showroom to double the size of their facility – as people invest more money into the best cars. (It’s an old, and true, adage that it’s worth buying the best you can find.)

“There’s a realization that with the latest incarnation of the 911, there’s something that’s basically missing with the more recent cars. There’s a rawness from the 996 Turbo, and as the cars have gotten newer they’ve lost that edge a little bit, they’ve become a little bit softer, a little more refined, they’re not quite as raw and personally, when I jump in a nice manual 996 Turbo now, it just feels edgy and it’s something that’s lost on the later cars. I think there’s a realization, people are starting to understand that.

It applies to the Turbos but also to 911s across the board – with the latest incarnation, there is no low speed fun. I think there’s less feedback, there’s less feeling.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Russ says I could already sell my car for 20% more than I bought it; but with both newer and older 911 Turbos costing more, and offering less joy, I am hanging on to it. The 11-year-old me would be delighted.

jzmporsche.com

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