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End of Davos love: The World Economic Forum is back in business

End of Davos love: The World Economic Forum is back in the work week but not as you remember

The annual gathering of the world’s most powerful business leaders returns next week for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.

For years, the Swiss ski town of Davos has played host to the rich and famous for four days. But early indications are that this year will be a moderate affair.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is still welcoming some of Britain’s most influential companies to its conference, which starts next Sunday.

Low key: The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos returns next week for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic

Low key: The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos returns next week for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic

But few of those familiar names will send their top executives, and those who do attend will hope to keep a low profile.

As the Treasury struggles to control Britain’s cost-of-living crisis, it has confirmed that it will not send any ministers to Davos.

The Government as a whole is still specifying whether to send a delegation. One major bank executive said: “It feels a bit like Davos-lite rather than full.”

The WEF annual conference has typically seen some of the world’s richest people descend on the city unassumingly, transforming it beyond recognition as they adorn bars and hotels with their corporate logos.

It usually takes place in January, giving visitors a chance to hit the slopes and mingle before breaking their trip short with intellectual talks in the conference center.

Meanwhile, journalists stake out the city in hopes of catching some of the world’s most powerful leaders off guard.

But this year, the meeting was pushed back to May, following the outbreak of the Omicron variant over the winter. It is the first time the meeting will be held in person since 2020.

Of the major British lenders, Barclays and HSBC are sending delegations. The new head of Barclays, CS Venkatakrishnan, known as Venkat, will attend.

He’s off to a rocky start since taking the reins from Jes Staley last year, facing a timeshare missale issue, a major business mistake in the US, and an accusation from the Bank of England that he was “gambling the system”. pensions

A spokesman said Venkat “wouldn’t do much more than engage the customer.”

Swiss lady: The alpine resort of Davos has played host to the likes of Tony Blair and Bono (pictured), but this year it's set to shine again

Swiss lady: The alpine resort of Davos has played host to the likes of Tony Blair and Bono (pictured), but this year it’s set to shine again

Noel Quinn, the chief executive of HSBC, will not be going this year.

But the bank’s director of sustainability, Celina Herweijer, will show her face, but a spokesman said “it was all about the weather for us this year.”

Abrdn, the business formerly known as Standard Life Aberdeen, was once a regular.

Its then CEO, Martin Gilbert, founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, which merged with Standard Life to create the larger company, proudly hosted a Scotch Whiskey Night Until 2020 where bankers, politicians and even the occasional celebrity they elbowed

But later that year, Keith Skeoch, who took over as sole chief executive, said he believed the meeting was “divisive” at a time when people were suffering due to Covid.

Speaking to the Mail, he added: “The money can be better spent.”

Abrdn, which is now run by Stephen Bird, confirmed that no staff members would attend.

One source said he “would not be surprised” if it marked the end of Abrdn in Davos.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘It seems like a waste of time. There’s something very undemocratic about that, the way the rich and powerful congregate like that.

I have never been invited. He seems like a very nice jolly.

“But I have deep concerns, this is not the way a democracy should work. Obviously, everyone goes there for something, but what is it?

The WEF, however, is convinced that the meeting will be a success. It states that more than 2,000 leaders and experts from around the world will gather, ‘all committed to the “spirit of Davos” of improving the state of the world.’

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