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Karina's Column

An insider’s view on the City of London and beyond

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My speech to London School of Economics graduates

This is an edited version of a graduation speech given at the London School of Economics in July 2019.


Good afternoon, Graduates of the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is your day, and your careers, and your new lives, which start today.


“I was at the LSE. I graduated from the LSE. I’m an LSE Alumnus.” Those words are like saying “Open Sesame.” For the world lies open to you. You will end up working for the Government of China, for NGOs, for PWC or Goldman Sachs or Google. You will be entrepreneurs, social impact investors, data scientists, academics, prime ministers and presidents…we would be here all day if I kept on going. 

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Vintage heaven; vintage hell

The transformation of Fine Wines

As you raise a glass of Chêne Bleu Rosé on a sizzling hot summer’s day, spare a thought for the wine industry, which is facing a perfect storm.

Global warming, increasing regulatory pressures, and disinvestment, are set to dent if not destroy what had seemed a simple story of emerging markets growth and increasing quality which would lead global wine consumption to reach $207bn in 2022.  

But the overall global wine and spirits market has slipped by -1.4% in the last five years, according to industry body IWSR, and disruption of the status quo is set to accelerate.  In the US, 54 per cent of the population chose to abstain from alcohol, driven largely by 21-34 year olds, according to a 2018 Nielsen Survey.

Parallels with the tobacco industry are not an exaggeration. Imagine a photograph of a liver riven by cirrhosis on a plainly packaged bottle of wine, along with a warning that alcohol can abet breast cancer. Inside, the magnum of Château Kirwan lies, un-drunk and unloved.

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How can the City recover its political capital?

The good news? The financial sector is no longer enemy number one. Its place has been taken by our fumbling politicians. The bad news? The City has not regained its political capital.

Post the financial crisis the City, meaning financial and professional services in the UK, lost the trust of the nation. A perfectly understandable and justifiable result, but one that must change because of the harm that is being done to our economy when the City has no advocates beyond its own members.

As the country grapples with Brexit, assembly lines of MPs appear on television defending the UK’s manufacturing base. Not one talks about the need to defend the City, despite it being responsible for over 13.5% of tax revenues – that’s a lot of hospitals, infrastructure and schools. It is also responsible for around 2.3m jobs – jobs that aren’t just in the Square Mile, or London and the South East, but also in Liverpool, Glasgow and Bournemouth.

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Language soft skills key to AI future

The aim of turning Britain into a “twenty-first century exporting superpower” is so laudable that it even brings together Remainers and Brexiters. But it was ironic that Liam Fox’s speech setting out the aim of boosting Britain’s exports to 35% of GDP from 30% was delivered in the two week period where A level and GSCE results highlight a continuous drop in interest in studying foreign languages.

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Diversity and Inclusion

The Catholic Church in Guatemala is on a downward spiral. The magnificent Easter processions that fill the streets of its towns with penitents in purple robes and enthusiastic spectators disguises its decline from a monopoly position to under 50% of the population.

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catherine phelps
Big Tech under pressure

Silicon Valley is shaken. Don’t be distracted by the confidence with which Big Tech representatives have been testifying to Congress about Russian influence in the US electoral process. Nor by the latest top tech results.

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catherine phelps
A New Age for Old Age

Dimmed lights are reflected on the heated sea water in the indoor pool, while New Age music wafts across the cavernous room. Aged bodies advance in slow motion from jet to jet, allowing each one to massage a different part of their arthritic bodies, while chatting desultorily with each other and with Nikkos, the Greek God of a lifeguard.

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