What Did BBC News Host Sally Bundock Learn From Davos?

29 January 2018

Sally Bundock is the host of Business Live on the BBC News and the BBC World News. Sally just spent the last few days in Davos, hanging out with the world’s leaders, thinkers, movers and shakers. In short, she spent the week networking with and interviewing anyone and everyone of great importance.

We caught up with her to hear about her experience and what she learnt from her time at Davos.

Sally, for those who may not know, what is Davos?

It is the World Economic Forum that takes place in the Swiss ski resort, Davos, an absolutely beautiful location. You fly to Zurich, then jump on a train to the little town. As it was covered in metres of snow this year, it was a real task for the authorities running WEF to get the delegates there, there were some huge logistical challenges! With over 3000 delegates attending, the whole town is completely overrun with people. Heads of State, leading politicians, charity representatives, philanthropists, people from NGOs and of course lots of journalists too. The event has been held for over 40 years but despite being all these years the purpose remains the same. Everyone is there networking, wheeling and dealing, and sharing ideas with the overall aim of making the world a better place and encouraging global trade.

When it was first founded the idea was to create a retreat where people wouldn’t be distracted or harassed by day to day tasks, so they could take time out in a stunning location and consider how to improve the world through trade and cooperation.

You mention 'the original idea' - how has it changed since then?

Well the original philosophy definitely still stands and those who are there are very aware of this and their responsibility in the world.   However despite the attendees being very conscious of their responsibility there is a lot of self-interest too.

That makes sense, so have you been before?

Yes, this was my third trip, but my first time for 13 years. I took a big gap due to my children being very young, so now that they’re older I could afford to take the time out for the trip. This year stood out for me, as it was the first time we had a sitting US president since 2000. I think Donald Trump felt like he was in a strong position to come to the forum this year and so he wanted to push his America first agenda with the audience of the “world elite”. There were over 50 heads of state attending this time, which is very unusual, including: Justin Trudeau, Theresa May, Emmanuel Marcon, Angela Merkel and several other prominent European leaders.  It would seem Davos really is the place to be. For the delegates it makes sense to be there as it saves them so much time and they can have significant meetings on a one to one basis with several key people during the 4 day event.  From the world of business there were also several prominent company bosses there, such as Alibaba, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Of course, there’s a lot of media too.

Sounds incredible - if you can sum it up, what did you learn?

I learnt a lot, I would describe it as business news on speed, there are just so many people in one space to grill – from politicians to key decision makers. It is extremely intense and exhausting, but it is also extraordinary in terms of sources of stories and news headlines that emerge. It is a very busy week, this year it got hijacked by the agenda of The White House, but it is important to mention all the other incredible discussions that were going on. The empowerment of women was covered, philanthropy, technology, cryptocurrencies and A.I. to mention a few. Also Hollywood shows up too, this year Cate Blanchett was there receiving an award for her work with refugees, Elton John was also in attendance for his work on HIV and aids. There are usually several Hollywood stars chatting up billionaires to get support for their causes.

In terms of reporting, I was extremely busy.  The BBC machine was very hungry, live on the Jeremy Vine show, BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Good Morning Scotland, BBC Breakfast, BBC Arabic, and for the first time we co-presented Business Live from Davos which worked really well.  I also moderated a panel discussion for WEF which was great as this meant I was able to have an in-depth discussion about key issues, rather than a three-minute live TV interview.

What can we expect to see this year?

One of the talking points from Davos was that we can expect a good year for growth in the global economy, but the UK may lag behind due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The advice was that whilst we are in an economic the “sweet spot”, we should invest in challenges that you wouldn’t go near if things were economically unstable. For example, governments should invest in infrastructure spending or renewable energy provision.  But on the same note, the sweet spot may not last in the long-term, so we need to aware that the global economic growth could be short-lived.

Thank you, Sally, for that guide to Davos and we’ll take heed of the advice!

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