The end of love in Davos: The World Economic Forum is back for the work week, but not as you remember it

The annual meeting of the world’s most powerful business leaders will return next week, for the first time since the pandemic outbreak.

For years, the Swiss ski town of Davos has hosted the rich and famous for four days. But the first signs that this year it will be a relaxed case.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) continues to welcome some of Britain’s most influential firms to its conference, which kicks off next Sunday.

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

But few of these nominal names will send their most important leaders, and those present will hope they will be unknown.

While the Treasury is fighting to control the cost of living crisis in Britain, it has confirmed it will not send ministers to Davos.

The government as a whole is still determined whether to send a delegation. One of the heads of one of the major banks said: “It’s more like Davos-lite than full fat.”

At the annual WEF conference, as a rule, some of the richest people in the world descend into the unpretentious city, turning it beyond recognition, decorating bars and hotels with their corporate logos.

It is usually held in January, giving visitors the opportunity to ride the slopes and chat before breaking off the trip with weird conversations at the convention center.

Journalists, meanwhile, are guarding the city in hopes of catching some of the world’s most powerful leaders without fear.

But this year the meeting was postponed to May after the outbreak of the Omicron version in the winter. For the first time since 2020, the meeting will be held in person.

Of the major British creditors, Barclays and HSBC are sending delegations. The new boss of Barclays CS Venkatakrishnan – known as Venkat – will be present.

Ever since he took the helm from Jess Staley last year, he has had a difficult start, he has faced the problem of improper timeshare sales, a serious trade mistake in the US and accusations from the Bank of England that he is “overplaying the pension system”.

A spokesman said Venkat “would do nothing but interact with customers”.

Swiss Miss: The Davos Alpine Resort has hosted people like Tony Blair and Bono (pictured), but this year it will bring back the shine

Swiss Miss: The Davos Alpine Resort has hosted people like Tony Blair and Bono (pictured), but this year it will bring back the shine

Noel Quinn, executive director of HSBC, will not go this year.

But the bank’s chief executive for sustainable development, Selina Herveyer, will show her face, but a spokeswoman said that “this year for us it’s all about the climate.”

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

Its then-CEO Martin Gilbert, founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, which teamed up with Standard Life to create a larger company, proudly hosted an evening of Scotch whiskey until 2020, at which bankers, politicians and even weird celebrities faced off.

But later that year, Keith Skeoch, who served as sole executive director, said he believes the meeting was “disunited” at a time when people were suffering because of Kovid.

In a conversation with the Mail, he added: “Money can be better spent.”

Abrdn, which is now headed by Stephen Byrd, has confirmed that staff will not be present.

One insider said they would “not be surprised” if it marks the end of Abrdn in Davos.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “Looks like a waste of time. There is something very anti-democratic in this, both the rich and the powerful are going so.

“I was never invited. Looks like a very good rainbow.

“But I have deep concerns that this is not how democracy should function. Obviously, they are all going there for something, but what is it?

The WEF, however, is confident 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’ to improve the world.”


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