BABC 2017 Conference British American Business Council

ICS Chairman Laurence Geller Welcomes Delegates to the 2017 BABC Conference

Ladies & Gentleman,

Welcome to Chicago, our dynamic, always growing and ever improving truly Global City.

We are so very grateful for your being part of the British American Business Council 2017 Transatlantic Conference and want you to enjoy every facet of our diverse, exciting, beckoning and enticing great city.

Chicago has so many world class attributes to offer and it takes many visits to taste and appreciate them all.

For those many of you who have travelled near and far to attend this conference, we hope you will return time and time again in the certainty that we will always beckon you with outstretched and welcoming hands

One thing is certain, every time you come not only will you always find something new to enjoy in Chicago but you will be coming back to visit a good friend. Our conference theme this year is “Navigation of the New World” and it could not be more timely or appropriate.

Our conference theme this year is “Navigation of the New World” and it could not be more timely or appropriate.

For I believe that Bob Dylan’s prescient 1964 warning: “The Times They Are A-Changing” is as important today as it was 53 years ago and could well be our theme song.

Unprecedented global uncertainty, volatility, stress, change and sadly, fear, continue to increasingly unsettle commercial societies and makes our business planning ever harder, more complex and more multidimensional than ever before as we can no longer take anything for granted.

I look around and see:

  • Populism on the rise.
  • Increasing disenfranchisement, breeding societal unrest and fragility.
  • Simmering nationalism bubbling up ever faster and resentment of, and by, immigrants rapidly increasing making for an explosive cocktail.

I scratch my head and wonder who, just 24 months ago would have believed that a new breed of neophyte or fringe politicians throughout the world would have such rapidly increasing sway?

Last weekend France followed the US in electing a political novice.

One can only hope that President–Elect Macron does not pursue Temperamental Tweeting as a primary means of communication.

The mere thought of the term Faux Media becoming part of his daily speeches makes the Francophile in me cringe.

Geopolitical tensions are on the rise as dreams of combined political-economic –military hegemony seems increasingly voguish in ambitiously despotic minds.

Terrorism has become an ever-present part of our daily lives with weaponized technology and communication channels as its great enablers.

No major city or country will be spared as terrorism grows Increasingly widespread and localized.

Astonishingly, we seem accepting of sickeningly commonplace and perfidiously evil acts of terror as they erode the all too frail fabric of our once civilized societies.

The orthodoxy of international trading is being harshly criticized and an endless stream of current and prospective trade deals are being questioned, renegotiated, and overturned.

Talk of isolationism, trade barriers, new tariffs are now the daily fodder of both politicians and media.

Corporate tax laws are changing throughout our democracies as countries, cities, and states jockey for their own power, growth, and self-centered benefit.

Technology is altering all of our lives with ever increasing and mind-boggling speed;  even challenging Moore’s 1965 Law prophesizing a doubling of processing capacity every year.

No long established global mega corporations can avoid the risk of quickly fading into relative insignificance; while new ones come and go with the speed of summer lightening as today’s darlings become tomorrow’s failures.

Globally, increasingly influential corporate activists greedily feast on the carcases of public company boards as they reluctantly face the new order of things.

Media ever delights in reviling corporate leaders, skewering their compensation and disparaging their crucial role in society, while gluttonously feting the vacuous cult of instant celebrity and reality TV stars.

Somehow I don’t’ think “Dancing with the CEO’s” is going to be a big hit! Brexit’s  double edged Sword of Damocles hangs over the UK and Europe, with uncertainty causing business foundations to quiver.

Brexit’s  double edged Sword of Damocles hangs over the UK and Europe, with uncertainty causing business foundations to quiver. The sheer volatility and unpredictability forces stasis as a self-sustaining, unelected bureaucracy challenges national prerogatives for supremacy.

Enquiring minds must surely wonder if the current EU’s over controlling and invasive structure can sustain itself in the face of what will likely be a successful post-Brexit UK? If not, then what happens? Whatever happens, the answer can only be more uncertainty?

Crucially for all of us participating in this conference, vital future trading relationships between the US and the UK  are being rethought in the harsh light of Brexit’s potential implications

We in the commercial world must work to ensure that voices of financial sanity prevail over media frenzy, instant sound bites, misinformation and political positioning for whatever gain or ambition.

I am left with no doubt that Society is at a crossroads…

And we are all faced with a bewildering plethora of choices and options. Doing nothing is simply no longer a choice.

Surely no one is immune from the impact of these tectonic shifts impacting every aspect of our lives and societies?

It is this backdrop of uncertainty and change that makes BABC’s Annual Transatlantic Conference so exceedingly important.

We must never allow ourselves to forget that information is key and knowledge is power.

With Thought Leadership as our underlying premise, the next 24 hours discussions will not only inform but, I am sure, will provoke and stimulate you to perhaps think far deeper and more multidimensionally than ever before.

I suggest that our program will make us quickly realize the enormous power and relevance of forging strategic partnerships and thus harnessing the best and increasingly specialized minds to meet our own needs.

I hope you will leave the Conference emboldened to provide an important voice in the policy debates proliferating on both sides of the Atlantic.

For there is no choice if each of us is to take part in influencing change for the better. If not us, who- if not now when

We, at the BABC, are so very lucky and grateful to Tom Stevens, the indefatigable President of BABC who has worked incredibly hard to provide an amazing integrated program  populated by the very brightest and best in their fields

I am convinced that this conference will better equip each of us to take advantages of the plethora of opportunities that this period of volatility and uncertainty will certainly offer the nimble, flexible, thoughtful, and, above all,  well-informed. In 1909, the great Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, co-authored “The Plan of Chicago” which laid out plans for the City of Chicago that you see before you today.

In 1909, the great Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, co-authored “The Plan of Chicago” which laid out plans for the City of Chicago that you see before you today.

He summed up this city’s culture and can-do attitude when he said “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work…”

Chicago has always been a bold and dynamic city whose citizens and leaders have never been shy at challenging convention, thinking big, innovating and re-inventing and, above all, translating dreams into reality.

It is the perfect place for this year’s conference and we hope our great city’s backdrop will excite and give you a call to action as you absorb and process all that you will hear and learn over the next 24  hours.

Above all, I am certain that each of us will be better off for participating as we individually use our gleaned knowledge to develop and firm up our own plans to thrive and flourish, while we leave our less informed competitors languishing in our wake.

While you enjoy this conference and the unquestioned delights of Chicago please don’t forget that Bob Dylan was right -“The Times They Are A-Changing


Laurence Geller CBE is the Chairman of the International Churchill Society.

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