On April 16th 2020, a few days into the first lockdown, Mark Ashworth announced the postponement of the 2020 event . The mail is a curiosity , a cameo of how phrases like “seeing you”, “in person” and “life returning to normal”. Of course life has not returned to the normal we thought of then and the conference did go ahead but not in person, and what we saw, was through our phone , ipad, laptop or desktop.
It is with regret that we have had to postpone our 15th Law Debenture Debate, which was to have been hosted by us on Monday, May 11th 2020. We were really looking forward to seeing you on a highlight night in our calendar, especially as we had received a “sell out” response. Given the circumstances we all find ourselves in, I am sure that you will understand.
I am, however, pleased to report that we have identified a replacement date, and to that end we would be delighted if you could move to hold the evening of Monday, May 10th 2021 in your diaries (6-9:30pm) and we will be in touch early in the New Year with confirmations. I realise that this may seem a distant and remote prospect, but we feel that it would be positive to express our confidence that life will return to more normal times.
It remains our firm intention to debate the important topic of ESG and we are delighted to count on the continuing support of Carolyn Saunders, who will Chair, and the debating teams of Vicki Bakhshi plus Colin Melvin and Sacha Sadan plus Dawn Turner.
In the interim we will of course keep you updated via colleagues, our website and LinkedIN about other discussions and events we host or are involved with, ‘virtually’ for the time being of course.
I and my colleagues look forward to being able to welcome you in person on 10th May 2021, and in the meantime we send our very best wishes for these difficult and challenging times.
Of the original line-up, only Sacha Sadan didn’t make it to the debate, itself an indication of how locked down we have become, The debate that happened is fully accessible and can be watched here, thanks to the record button on Zoom and the capacity to upload to You Tube.
Three days after receiving the link only 23 people have viewed it no one has expressed a like or dislike. 300 people turned up for the event. My suspicion is that people are still more interested in the event than the debate.
The link came with an expression of hope from the conference organizers that next year we would see each other in person. I often express a wish to see people in person but rarely do, people are still reluctant to meet face to face.
It remains to be seen whether we will prioritize travelling to such events in the way we did. Will we ever again get sell-out venues, will the attraction of a live event – with the capacity for “live chat” and the facility to multi-task available. Multi-tasking is of course what you do when you turn off the video , mute your sound and go and watch the racing on TV.
The debate we had this year did seem to engage the audience who’s view of whether ESG is best directed at changing the way investments are managed was challenged by the view that the best way to manage ESG risks is to sell investments that don’t cut the mustard. The audience seems to have decided both before and after the event that managing investments is better than selling them though more took the divestment view at the end than at the start.
It was an academic debate, meaning that the people who took sides, did so because they were allocated a side, not because they believed in the position they were arguing for. This made the debate more intellectual and less passionate. Bearing in mind the issues being discussed are potentially existential, I thought the absence of conviction made the debate rather less interesting – but I can see that many in the audience, who were highly intellectual, may have preferred the debate to be played out at a cerebral rather than emotional level.
It is great that Law Debenture have kept the debate going, albeit with over 700 days off the racecourse (my viewing habits are impinging on this blog).
But I suspect that the curiosity of a virtual debate, unthinkable when Mark Ashworth wrote his mail in April 2020, is our new normal and the curiosity is not what happened this week, but why it didn’t happen in May 2020.