Monthly Archives: October 2017

Master Of The World! … Traders…

What an honour, and a delight!  I was so pleased to be installed as Master of the World Traders on Wednesday, 25 October.

The Installation Dinner was a significant event for Elisabeth, my daughters Maxine and Xenia, our friends, and me.  The Company assembled a glittering array of guests, expertly marshalled by our Clerk and Beadles into a warm combination of ceremony and celebration.  At the ceremonial court we thanked Robert and Barbara for their hard work and most successful year, admitted 11 freemen and 5 liverymen, taking the Company over 300 members.  We awarded our first Honorary Liveryman of the Company to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, who was our Tacitus Lecturer in 2015.  We dined, basking  in wonderful music by CLS Close Harmony, later hearing Baroness Scotland’s thoughts on trade and the Commonwealth.  As the Germans might say, “sehr gemütlich”!

My dear friend, Immediate Past Master, Robert Woodthorpe Browne, performing the installation ceremony.

The text of my Toast To The Guests:

Master, Wardens, High Commissioner, My Lords, Aldermen, Ladies and Gentlemen.  This wonderful evening in Sir David Lewis’ and my Aldermanic Ward of Broad Street, next to Austin Friars and the Dutch Church, means so very much to Elisabeth and me, for it encompasses past, present, and future, friends and family.  Our feelings tonight are the subject of so many songs, from Karen Carpenter to one of my daughter’s favourites, Imagine Dragons, “We’re on top of the world”.

In 2006 past Master Jack Wigglesworth asked me to fill the spot Baroness Scotland had tonight with her insightful comments on the Commonwealth and Trade.  It was in this very Drapers’ Hall that he and Carlotta turned up the volume on their own CD and press-ganged me into the Company.  We’ve all had the honour of watching our Company grow under the stewardship of ten masters since, till this year we surpassed 300 members today under the direction of Michael Shapiro.  Our immediate immediate past Master, Wendy Hyde, invigorated our City connections.  The immediate past Master, Robert Woodthorpe Browne and his wife Barbara connected us with the varied and fascinating markets of London.

Baroness Partricia Scotland QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, receiving her Honorary Freedom of the Livery

For me, the present is coming to grips with being Master.  This City is full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers.  What is Master of the World Traders?  Perhaps we should be the WorldMongers or GlobeMongers.  Around the same year that I was doing that talk for Jack, one of my daughters had to speak at school about her parents’ professions.  Did she want to talk about Daddy the scientist, the accountant, securities professional, or computer expert?  Certainly not Daddy the management consultant.  Who could ever explain that?  No, she chose the easy option and belted out to the entire class at full volume, “My Daddy is a World Trader”.

Now that I’m Master, I hope to explain our Company to everyone.  Wouldn’t it be nice to fulfil David Bowie’s lyrics – “You’re face to face, With the man who sold the world”.  I think my catchphrase might be “Psssst.  Hey Buddy, want to buy a planet?”

But the future is a tough sell these days.  We have creaking constitutions, Brexit, America First, WTO problems, let alone North Korean missiles, nuclear proliferation, hurricanes, and pandemic bugs.  Strangely, there are people who try to put a value on Earth.  $3,000 trillion is one number.  $5 quadrillion another.  Could we find some other species to sell it to and get thrown into the vacuum of space with huge wads of cash?  Could we use the proceeds to buy a slightly more upmarket planet with even nicer fjords in a better neighbourhood?  No, we need to succeed with what we have.  Ian Harris and I wrote a book, The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions, pointing out that our core challenge as a species is “To live successfully with each other in a shrinking planet”.  Technology is essential to that hopeful success and thus our theme this year is “Trade & Technology”.

Mankind uses tools to control our environment, our planet, and our aspirations for our universe.  Technology is our distinguishing feature.  But it’s not all progress.  Douglas Adams notes: “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”  “We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.  How do you recognize something that is still technology?  A good clue is if it comes with a manual.”  As Tears & Fears sang, “Nothing ever lasts forever, Everybody wants to rule the world”.

Before you should be a small gift from Elisabeth and me – technology that should help you get “a detailed grip on the big picture”, or perhaps a “big picture grip on the details”.  It’s a lens cloth or ‘screen wiper’ to help you see technology more clearly.  Hopefully it’s still held together by a humble clothes-pin.  In so many ways, technology is about taking back control from the environment, for clothes-pins that’s control of the wind.  Jérémie Victor Opdebec sneakily took out a patent for the dolly peg in 1809.  Two guys from Vermont blew that old tech apart.  In 1853 David M Smith’s “new and useful or improved…spring clamp for clothes lines” became the modern articulated peg, somewhat anthropomorphic and erotic according to the Economist, in harmonious opposition “the two longer legs may be moved toward each other and at the same time move the shorter ones apart”.

As a Professor, tonight I have to ask you an examination question about installations – How many World Traders does it take to install a light bulb?  The Answer: None, Adam Smith’s invisible hand will do it all.  Unfortunately the joke’s wrong, free markets need help.  If ever a year cried out for World Traders, it might be this.  Just the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next April and our Brexit uncertainties place trade & technology in the forefront of the nation’s future.

All liveries are committed to civic commerce, community, and charity based around fellowship.  So what are World Traders going to do in 2017 and 2018?

Our theme is “Motivate, Create, Celebrate”.  On commerce, we respond to members who asked for more intellectual content about trade, going right back to our founding by Peter Drew in St Katharine’s Dock.

  • Trade has been as much science as finance. You must book 15 November– “From Archives to Modern Lives: Frontiers of Trade and Technology”.  You’ll have a chance to hold Photo 51, the original DNA image, and celebrate London technology from Thomas Gresham’s New Learning to the Royal Society and the modern era at Kings College.
  • On 21 March we debate “Technology & Trade In The Commonwealth”, with the post-graduates at Eric Tracey’s Goodenough College, co-hosted by the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council.
  • On 22 February Dr Nathan Myhrvold delivers our Tacitus Lecture for Nick Mayhew, Jan Dawson, and the team. The renowned and controversial scientist, founder of Microsoft Research, and now founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures with over 95,000 patents and strong views on patent trolling and geo-engineering is also an extreme cuisine scientific foodie colleague of Heston Blumenthal.
  • We are commissioning a research publication on the value of smart ledgers to world trade, are working with an ISO group on a qualification for World Trade, and will have number of other events looking in on the natural, life, formal, and applied sciences & technologies of our City.

On community, our Learned Clerk, Gaye Duffy, will nimbly execute a complex series of traditional events, but we want to be an even more tech savvy Company.  Our Communications Committee, led by Zoë Buckingham, has already developed a member-led website, will soon implement a new membership system, and also deploy charity and events systems inclusive of non-members.  We shall experiment more with social media and online meeting technology and produce a short World Traders’ video.  Our overseas trip this year will be to Dublin where the Irish government and the Industrial Development Authority are hosting us at Iveagh House, we’ll stay at Trinity College Dublin, one of my alma maters, and we’ll participate in Bloomsday, the annual celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses.  Our Education Committee under Sue Algeo is educating us at Gresham College events.

On charity, perhaps in anticipation of our Dublin Trip, Simon Maddox, the Events Committee, and the Court call on all members to support our attempt to break a Guinness World Record – “The Most Nationalities In A Simultaneous Popular Music Sing-along”.  Our attempt is scheduled for 16:00 on Monday, 27 November 2017 at St Lawrence Jewry Church, Guildhall Yard, just before the grand opening of the British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  The challenge song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”, along with a Christmas Carol and a ‘trade song’ (suggestions welcomed). London Business School set the last record in 2016 with 72 nationalities; we need 101 for obvious reasons.  The proceeds go to the Red Cross, St Lawrence, and our charitable trust.

One of my favourite comedians, the surreal Steve Wright, said, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.”  Robert and Barbara painted a magnificent world in their year.  Elisabeth and I can’t top that, but perhaps we can paint a tech perspective on trade.  One thing I’ve learned about our Company over the years comes from Take That – “If you stay by our sides, we can rule the world.”

Tradereaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all of our societies and communities.  Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”).

As I said, all liveries are committed to civic community, commerce and charity based around fellowship.  Our fellowship is cemented by having our friends over as guests.

I ask the Company and Guests to rise together and drink the Company’s toast inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address of 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”

11 new freemen and 5 new liverymen take us over 300 members.

May I thank one and all most sincerely for your immense support.  I had some big trepidations, possibly only surpassed at a certain ceremony with Elisabeth some two decades back, but wound up enjoying the evening enormously and being so proud of our Company.