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Antwerp Diamond Bourse Welcomes World Diamond Congress

Jun 17, 2014 3:36 AM   By Antwerp Diamond Bourse
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Press Release: The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Marcel Pruwer, the president of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse, at the 36th World Diamond Congress in Antwerp on June 16. 

Dear ministers, presidents, delegates and members, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the Antwerp Diamond Bourse.

The Antwerp Diamond Bourse is delighted to host you here this evening in this listed building, on the occasion of the 36th World Diamond Congress.

At the end of the 19th century, Antwerp diamantaires were doing their diamond business in café’s near the station, amongst them Café Petit Duc. Needing security and privacy they opened the Beurs Voor Diamanthandel, in 1904, more or less at the same time as our colleague bourse The Club opened its doors.

We are a member organization like all other bourses. Our business is a people’s business.

Many of you will have noticed in recent months a new wave of activity and initiatives by different bourses. These include trade events and promotions and also increasingly, direct cooperation in holding events, between bourses.

These new events have brought back a strong feel for the people's aspect of the business, including taking responsibility.

Led by its president, Ernie Blom, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses is increasingly active in a growing number of areas to protect and promote the interest of its members.

This represents a new chapter in the history of the bourses and of the diamond business and a new departure point for a strategy that can respond to the challenges of the day with agility, speed and execution.

In addition to increasing our trade between bourses, we are open to working together with all stakeholders in the industry.

Albert Einstein said that the same brain that created a problem cannot solve it.

We need to think differently. We need to engage with our business differently. We need to be ready to be challenged and to challenge all our assumptions.

Dear friends, a jazz musician playing a set piece of music displays a particular pattern of brain activity. The same musician, if he is improvising, creating new music, has a very different pattern of brain activity.

Kahneman and Twersky won a Nobel Prize for teaching us how little we understand about how our mind functions and how we think and why we do what we do. They helped usher in the current interest in neuroscience and behavioral psychology.

In trying to understand how we think and what we think, a couple of years ago a team of neuroscience researchers tried out an experiment.

Every year in Israel, 1,000 students go out to raise money for social causes. They divided the group into three. A third were asked to raise money voluntarily, one-third  were promised a 1 percent commission and another third were promised 10 percent commission.

What happened? The first group working for free, raised the most money.

Why? Money is not always the motivator it is assumed to be. Passion, interest and commitment are very often better motivators.

In another example, in a city there is a popular daycare center and two or three times a week, one or two parents would come late, annoyingly keeping the staff waiting. The staff got very frustrated. After discussion, trying to find a deterrent they posted a notice that any parent collecting their child late would have to pay $10 for every time they were late.

What happened? Three of four times, more parents came late.

Why? Because there was now a simple, unemotional price to pay for doing what the daycare center did not want to happen. Now I pay and so, I can be late. Money is not the answer to everything and is not a metric that works for everything.

Unintended consequences can easily play havoc with our best intentioned plans.
Earlier today, Ernie Blom quoted Winston Churchill who said the future empires will be empires of the mind.

Churchill also said, when you have 1,000 laws you destroy all respect for the law.

Does anybody think that the banks that brought the world to financial collapse in 2008 didn’t have compliance bibles and codes of ethics? Does anybody think that the last round of banks who have been fined for sanctions busting, misselling products and other wrongdoing didn’t have compliance rules? The average rule book of a major corporation or bank is around 1,000 pages and they have lawyers and everyone signs hundreds of documents. And then they were fined for not following  those rules, JP Morgan -- $13 billion,  HSBC -- $1.9 billion, Banque Paris Bas, anticipating a fine of maybe $10 billion.

The key, surely, is having business people not just following 1,000 rules, but business people having an internal ethical compass, with a strong industry ethos, clear rules and structured regulations that are rigorously and unambiguously enforced.

When we studied economics we were taught land, labor and capital are the factors of production. Today business schools are teaching integrity is a factor of production.

This week, this diamond congress is actively dealing with these rules and regulations, deliberating policy and mapping our way ahead. We need to do this clearly and decisively, a vital responsibility for our global diamond business.

We live in times of volatility and permanent turbulence.

In 1935 the average lifetime for an S&P 500 company was 90 years. Today It's about 18 years.

We live in a totally new consumer world.

The world is increasingly populated by empowered and skeptical consumers.

Smart, bold, contemporary companies now create platforms for engaging consumers as co-designers and co-producers.

A few days ago Vani Hara, a 32 year-old blogger, decided she wanted beer companies to disclose the ingredients in their beer, which they refused to do. It took her 36 hours to get 44,000 online signatures and the first and second largest drink companies in the world, AB INBEV & SAB Miller, very quickly agreed to publish their ingredients.

Major companies have less control over their brand.

Again, we need new ideas on all aspects of our business.

Today we are told, emotional marketing is the key to creating an interest on the part of consumers.  Companies and industries are creating communities of consumers through social media. Consumers today have a much more comprehensive notion of value,social, environmental and financial.

Einstein agreed there was “nothing new under the sun” but he firmly believed in combining old things in new ways…The brain chemistry changes when two old ideas suddenly overlap to create a new idea.

Many people may assume that Einstein was a mathematical left-brain thinker, but he wasn’t -- he was a right-brain thinker. Famously, he sat on a light-beam and traveled its path to try and understand how the world worked.

Collectively, our industry is certainly capable of doing all the left and right-brain thinking we need.  Our unique international diamond trade has been a late adaptor in redesigning its business model.

Our challenge at this congress is to continue to find new ideas to leverage the intellectual, entrepreneurial and logistical resources we all have as the World Federation of  Diamond Bourses together with our allies and stakeholders to create innovative solution.

I believe and encourage the delegates and presidents to think and discuss whether the small, incremental changes we make in managing our businesses are enough, or whether we need much bigger steps if we are to take this unique business further towards its full potential.

Our industry needs deeper pools of financing capital, better banking, higher profit through the processing parts of the pipeline, more innovation and creativity in design and marketing, creating more emotional content, a better image and reputations in all business and political arenas.

If we work together,all bourses and all critical industry forums that wish to work with us, we are infinitely stronger, much more strongly placed to build a sustainable thriving, profitable and admirable industry.

Thank you and have a wonderful evening, enjoy your food and the rest of the congress.   

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