I will be doing a China Road show to speak about Value(s) Investing in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Hope you can join us if you are in the area. Thank you to the organisers, particularly Peiyuan Guo of Syntao, for their kind invitation.
We all feel that we are failures, at sometime in our lives. Things don’t work out, ideas or projects seem to fail in our eyes, or they take a lifetime to come to fruition. During that dark, seemingly hopeless period, it is imperative to keep the faith, eyes on the ball and keep tilling the soil. Shoots ultimately will come out.
Recently, my wife, Rieki, experienced the ultimate Frank Capra “It’s a wonderful life” moment. My wife started a Hotel School in Bhutan, called the Bongde Institute for Hospitality and Tourism about 2 years ago. She struggled continuously trying to get the school off the ground in a frontier market, with no funding, no infrastructure, no income, with continuous challenges and obstacles that she needed to overcome. Recently, she finally saw what she had created and what Jimmy Stewart felt like in It’s a Wonderful Life (Experiencing what would have happen if we didn’t exist).
To reward one of her best students, Kinley, Rieki decided to bring her to Amsterdam for an internship at a four star hotel in Amsterdam. This was the first time that Kinley was ever outstide of Bhutan. Kinley started working at the hotel and her work was exceptional. So exceptional, that one day a gentleman who was having a meal there, called her over and inquired about her background. He said “why is it that you are so good at your work in comparison with the rest of the food and beverage staff”. She said “I studied at the Bongde Institute of Hospitality and Tourism in Bhutan”. He said “WHAT. I want to meet the person who started that school”. A hotel school that trained its staff well and was based in Bhutan was quite a shock. It turns out that this man was a very successful hotelier, entrepreneur and had a large enterprise owning and operating 5 star hotels in Asia.
Rieki and the Hotelier met and he was overwhelmed by what Rieki had done and was planning to do next. He offered to take interns from her school, send equipment if needed, and wants to discuss collaboration on her hotel school in Bhutan, and potential hotel development in Bhutan. In addition, he was particularly interested in her next project. Building a working hotel school for the Governor of the Karen State in Myanmar to help the 100.000 refugees, and developing a culturally authentic and carbon neutral hospitality sector.
As the year comes to an end, we normally take stock and think encouraging thoughts for the future. I feel extremely upbeat, in spite of hardships, refugee crisis, elections, referendums, heros dying, Syrian War, corporate governance abuses, financial challenges, and more.
Who would have thought that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. Well, in spite of losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million, he is. Among my immediate and intermediate network, many were upset, angry, and concerned that the progress that had been made on climate change, would end. In addition, we would lose all the momentum that COP 21 set in motion. Fossil intensive investments would gain the uperhand. I don’t share that concern. In fact, maybe this is the ultimate stress test that a carbon free economy needs. The USA has a President and his team, and a great deal of Congressmen and Senators, that are climate deniers. The government seems controlled by those in the camp of fossil intensive industries. If we can survive that, then the system has turned the corner. I believe we have. Just look at the figures, even if Donald and Fox News say otherwise.
Coal companies have gone bankrupt (Peabody) or loss most of their share price, on lack of demand and low prices. Oil prices are at historic lows. If demand keeps going down for fossil fuels, how will increasing drilling and mining help the matter. That train has left the station. If we look at the state of fuel free energy systems, we can only see massive success that can’t be turned back, as that would fly in the face of economics. Trump’s team does seem to have some expertise in making money and should be able to do the math.
2016 has been a year of record low prices for low-carbon technologies. In August, a solar PV project in Chile set a new low price of 2.9c/kWh. The following month, a record low was set for offshore wind in Danish waters of approximately 6.4c/kWh. The third record to fall is that of battery storage courtesy of Tesla’s Powerwall 2 that was announced in November. The Powerwall 2 is nearly half the installed cost per kWh of its predecessor with an inverter built in, making it “the cheapest lithium battery for the home ever made”, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). To make matters all the more impressive, BNEF announced this year that 2015 saw record levels of investment into renewables and record installed capacity.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2016
How electric cars will cause further oil collapse?
The Montreal Pledge is the first agreement of investors that require full transparency of their carbon risk and exposure. You can imagine that very few have signed, as this is not an aspirational statement like most of the international ESG agreements, but a true commitment to de-carbonization. “By signing the Montréal Carbon Pledge, investors commit to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of their investment portfolios on an annual basis.”
Podcast on Corporate Governance-Wells Fargo Bad Form
Great podcast on how Wells Fargo forced its sales teams to force customers to buy products they didn’t want, which led to fraudulent practices. Unfortunately, the employees took a great deal of the fallout.
TBLI VIP Dinners
In 2016, TBLI organised 4 VIP dinners and they were a huge success. The last two we held Dec 6&7, were sold out. In 2017, TBLI will be organising private dinners in various locations during international ESG & Impact Conferences, for a small group of thought leaders (25). The goal is to support each other in our ambition of scaling up Impact Investing.
Support TBLI’s work on building capacity and educating asset owners and managers about liquid and illiquid investments in Sustainability (ESG and Impact Investing). Make a Donation to TBLI Foundation.
I want to particularly thank my immediate family. They have been a great source of strength, inspiration, and sometimes less so. One thing, for sure, they are never boring. Rieki, Sam and Silas. May all your aspirations come true. Let’s keep laughing.
Arthur stay well and hope to see you more frequently in 2017.
To my 90 year old mother in NY. As we say in Brooklyn ‘Ma. Ya did good.” Thanks.
As a sign of defiance in a world of injustice, let us all confront Chat and Cutters, and other abuses, as Larry David does so brilliantly.
I am a huge fan of the tv show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The star and writer, Larry David, is brilliant in his ability to be brutally honest, awkward, and totally embarrassing with his social dysfunctionality. However, the show makes you laugh, which is essential, these days. If you never watched it, start today. Every time I am watching a television interview or listening to a podcast interview about something that I find important, I think of Larry David.
Most people being interviewed always say “that is a very good question” even if the question is stupid, useless, empty or just a dead end. What drives me crazy is the standard one-two punch in responding to the interviewer. First “that is a very good question” then you hear “You know. It is very interesting…”, even if nothing is interesting, which they often prove with their answer. I often think that media advisors or other “experts” on not being authentic, train people with these two repetitive statements. Larry David’s does a brilliant parody on these empty comments.
Let’s have a real dialogue where people say what they really think and challenge the interviewer in a polite, educational, and engaging way. Empty gestures don’t cut it and just dumbs us down. The stakes are too high and we need to be inspirational, thought provoking and laugh.
A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Come to TBLI EUROPE 2015, Nov. 19-20 in Zurich. You will be inspired and have your thoughts challenged, and have a great time.
Guest Post Jochen Wermuth
The first Dow Jones Industrial Index only had steam engine rail companies in it, there were only horses on the roads and horse-whip-makers were great investments. Just a few years later there were no more horses on the road, no rail company in the Dow Jones – a new industrial revolution based on the combustion engine wiped out the old economy companies, with many losers and winners like the Rockefellers and JP Morgans at the time. A similar new industrial revolution is under way now with similarly large risks and opportunities.
With solar power being offered at $4cent/kWh in Austin Texas, a price with which oil could only compete at $7/barrel, the fossil fuel economy is dead. There will be huge changes in the world economy with many losers (the old oil, gas, coal companies and their related industries ) and many winners, the new Rockefellers. We can stand at the spearhead of this new industrial revolution, allowing us to earn outstanding profits and at the same time generating a sustainable future for our planet.
On the risk side, there will have to be write-offs of $21 trillion in oil, gas and coal reserves by listed companies, as they will no longer be profitable to burn because greater energy efficiency and competition from renewables will drive down long-term fossil fuel prices. This is huge and compares to $15 trillion write-offs in the mortgage bubble.
On the opportunity side, emerging markets still consume 4x as much energy as we do say in Germany or in the EU. Thus bringing state-of-art products there we can make a lot of money and have a huge impact. With solar and wind-power now costing less than power from the grid there are also ample business opportunities across the world. Few have realized this, just as few realized for a long time that smoking was bad for your health…
Great background reading in this regard is the book “My indecent proposal to the German Chancellor” which tells the great success story of a farmer’s boy becoming the owner-manager of a multibillion dollar company in the renewable energy space and sets out the plan for Germany to become 100% renewable powered by 2020. A model for a successful business leader in the new industrial revolution, winning against all odds, and a model for any country in the world (in particular those with more sun) to follow.
As missing this opportunity may not only cost each of us money but could destroy life on our plante, my wife Sasha and I have shared with many of you a hard-copy of the book already. Given continued interest we have gotten the author to make the book available electronically and free of charge for TBLI Blog readers in return for my father having edited and translated it to English.
To download your complimentary copy of the Book in different “eBook” formats for almost any common reading device like Kindle, Tablets ( IOS Android ) or Smartphones, please visit There is also a pdf version for PC-, Mac and Linux Users available. If everything else fails, you can also find an adobe flash based ePaper Version that you can read online with any flash enabled Browser. If you have Problems downloading or opening your copy, please contact email@example.com.
Please have a look and enjoy!