The second annual Greenwich Economic Forum, which takes place Nov. 5-6 at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel, will be “like a mini-Davos or mini-Milken conference,” according to James Aiello, co-founder of the forum and co-chairman of the Greenwich Business Institute.
“We began last year really with two goals,” Aiello told the Business Journal. “First we wanted to reinforce the greater Greenwich area as a center for thought leadership in the financial services industry. We’re one of the centers for the public equity, venture capital, and hedge fund sectors.
“And secondly,” he said, “we wanted to create significant economic activity for the town, the region and the state – not just by focusing on the thought leaders here but also by attracting other people from the rest of the country as well as from around the world.”
There is a wide-ranging number of speakers and presenters on this year’s agenda, including Gov. Ned Lamont, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman, and executives from The Carlyle Group.
Representatives from several local firms will also be on stage, including Mohamed El-Erian, senior adviser at Greenwich’s Gramercy Funds Management; Paul Tudor Jones, founder of Stamford’s Tudor Investment Management Corp.; and Ray Dalio, founder, co-CIO and co-chairman of Westport’s Bridgewater Associates.
The latter was instrumental in getting the forum off the ground, Aiello said. “Bruce McGuire (forum co-founder and president of the Connecticut Hedge Fund Association) had run some investment conferences in the past a number of years ago that had gone very well,” he said. “We thought it might not be a bad idea to put on an event here with a higher profile.”
At an exploratory meeting, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei “who has a good relationship with Ray Dalio said, ‘Why not run this past Ray and see what he thinks?’”
Dalio leapt at the idea, Aiello said, agreeing to being a featured speaker at both last year’s and this year’s GEF.
That first edition drew about 360 people, and Aiello expects 400 to 420 this year, “which is really the maximum that the hotel can hold.” Only by enclosing the Delamar’s patio on the water – “we’ll have a heated tent,” Aiello promised – could the additional attendees be accommodated.
The driving idea behind the forum is “to help the institutional investor prosper,” he said. “There are a lot of other conferences out there that are very, very good, but they tend to have more of a B2B or entertainment-oriented approach. Ours is a more serious, thought-provoking conference designed to start a lot of dialog.”
Topics include investing cycles, emerging markets, cryptocurrency, health care and credit, along with the current situation, and investment opportunities, in China, “which is on everyone’s mind these days,” Aiello said. Presenters on the latter topic include executives from Guotai Junan Futures, China Industrial Securities and the Asset Management Association of China.
In fact, Aiello said, the forum has “some great connections with China. We are very seriously considering doing a conference in Shanghai.”
The organization is also spinning off mini-forums of about 100 people designed to drill down on such topics as China and credit; Aiello said additional ones on cryptocurrency and private equity are under discussion.
He also indicated that plans are already being drawn up for a third conference in Greenwich.