Future skills and surrealism: the Golden Couch in Frankfurt

News Arnulf Hinkel, financial journalist – 12.04.2019

"He who knows his past has a future." These were the opening words of Markus Koch, renowned stock exchange professional, at the Frankfurt event location "Horst". Koch summarised the programme for the 100 invited guests and winners of VIP tickets: “The questions we will focus on tonight: What's important for our money – and what's next for us investors?” As at the previous Golden Couch events in Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden, Koch again welcomed three talk guests. This time, they could not have been more different: Dr Uwe Schneidewind, President of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment & Energy, Dr Christian Hagelüken, Head of Umicore's EU Government Affairs Department, and sociologist Prof Wolfgang Lauterbach, who co-authors the annual poverty and wealth report of the German government.

Wise investment advice by Charlie Chaplin

The three rounds of talks were part of a combined multimedia and live show evocative of 1920s revue theatre, complete with a pianist and a singer.   

More turbulent than anything investors had ever experience before, the decade’s euphoria, herd mentality, the overconfidence and finally, the sheer panic that built up among private investors until October 1929 was aptly described by German author Klaus Mann.

The Frankfurt show kicked off with a clip from Charlie Chaplin's film “Gold Rush”, where the comedian's encounter with an obtrusive bear illustrates a stock market rule still valid today: "When a bear appears, keep calm – he'll go away eventually".  

Other items on the programme of the twenties-themed show were inventions made in Frankfurt, such as the Futura typeface and rocket propulsion technology, which would enable the first moon landing decades later. But more general contemporary developments – such as the birth of surrealism – were also discussed or even demonstrated, as in the case of the musical instrument Theremin, which helped to shape the sound of the twenties.

Can investors save the climate?

The first round of talks dealt with the urgently needed transformation of our transportation and mobility behaviour into more sustainable models and the increased relocation of capital to sustainable companies by investors. Under the motto “Future skills” Dr. Uwe Schneidewind presented the findings of his Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment & Energy. The research facility ranks among the top 10 think tanks worldwide. The term “Future skills” refers to the ability of combining cultural change, intelligent politics, new economies and innovative technologies. 

Gold and environmental protection – might they go hand in hand after all?

As the second guest of the evening, Dr Christian Hagelüken presented Umicore, a company that has evolved from a pure mining company to one of the leading recycling and materials technology companies. Koch and Hagelüken discussed the successes achieved, especially in gold recycling and emission avoidance, and addressed the growing electro mobility market. According to Umicore, the emission of approximately 1 million tons of CO2 has already been avoided through the company’s technology and recycling.

Who are the rich – and why?

The final guest of the evening, Prof Wolfgang Lauterbach, sociologist at the University of Potsdam, explained the drastic cultural differences between Germany and the US with regard to the perception of wealth. While wealth in the US is subject to open admiration, in this country it is seen more as a flaw. The typical characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, such as extraversion, aggressiveness and the willingness to take risks, are also seen as rather critical in Germany. Lauterbach and Koch also discussed how a more positive attitude to wealth could help an entire nation, the root of “German Angst” and why a majority of the German wealthy came to their fortune without any action on their own part.

By the way: Full-length videos of all previous discussion rounds are available on diegoldenecouch.de

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