It’s not every day I meet a Head of State or an official as significant as the ambassador from one country to another. As an alumnus of the IMD Business School in Switzerland, I was privileged to be invited to hear the Swiss Ambassador to the US speak, over lunch at the New York Stock Exchange.

Key Learnings:

  • Diplomats are amazingly good at saying things carefully. One of the people on stage favored a controversial politician; the Ambassador managed to continue the discussion without visibly supporting or refuting the other person.
  • A lot of what goes on between countries is about money. The Ambassador and the people speaking with him spoke frequently about the importance of countries investing in each other and buying each others’ products.
  • Despite the above, the Ambassador made strong statements condemning Russia’s actions against Ukraine. He cited that “There can be no freedom, and no trade, if there is not rule of law; therefore sovereignty absolutely must be respected.” He did say it was a very difficult decision, for the country whose name is synonymous with neutrality, to take a side – however in this case he said the Swiss considered it morally essential.
  • The term “Swiss Bank Account” used to be considered the ultimate symbol of wealth — and more importantly, of secret untraceable money. Apparently the US has been such a bully with Swiss Banks, that even the Ambassador had a problem keeping his account when he took a position in the US. The banks are now cautious about who is allowed to have an account, and what might be done with the funds. Launderers may need to shop elsewhere.