Nedbank CEO Mike Brown on how the focus at WEF has changed since 2010

Nedbank CEO Mike Brown speaks to Bronwyn Nielsen on the ground at WEF 2023 in Davos, where he is attending his 10th WEF gathering. Brown explains how the focus has shifted from everything banking-related to ESG, sustainability and climate change.

Mike Brown on how Davos’ key focus areas have changed over time 

This is Davos number 10 for me and it has changed dramatically over that period. I recall the 2010 Davos I came to. The absolute focus then was banking and financial services, post the global financial crisis. You could not go to a meeting that wasn’t about banking, bank regulation, bank remuneration, etc. As we roll forward now, you see more of a technology focus coming through at Davos and increasingly a focus on ESG, sustainability, climate change and those sorts of topics. It definitely morphs over time as global interests change.  

Nedbank leading the path of sustainability in banking 

I am fortunate. The e leaders that came before me at Nedbank put us on the path of sustainability in the 1990 and early 2000s. Certainly, it is a leadership position that is becoming increasingly hard to hold onto. There is a lot of competition in the space, but we at Nedbank believe we are a purpose-led organisation, using our financial expertise to do good. It is ingrained in the culture of the organisation and that becomes very hard to replicate. 

Solutions to solving the energy crises in SA has to be led by the private sector 

Our energy situation should never have got to where it is right now. It is a disaster for the South African economy and needs to be solved with dramatic urgency. That said, the solutions have to live in the introduction of more capacity to the grid. Given our government’s current financing constraints and inability to deliver operationally, that has to be led by the private sector. We have already seen most of our clients kick off large embedded energy-generation projects. Those, unfortunately, take up to 18 to 24 months before you can connect them to the grid. However, there are multiple ongoing financing opportunities for Nedbank and other investors. It is too big for one bank to transition our energy supply into something much greener and to also provide much more energy security.  

What stands out about WEF

I always come here hoping, first and foremost, to represent Nedbank and our country. You can do that through networking. This is an unparalleled networking opportunity. We meet large customers, large suppliers, consultants and corresponding banks. The other thing is it is a wonderful learning opportunity. You think you know a lot until you listen to experts. Whenever I come to the World Economic Forum, I realise how little I know about many topics. It is a wonderful educational experience. Then, we are here to represent our country – both the good and bad – to the investment community.  

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