Don’t take anything for granted.
On Tuesday morning, the Insider team stumbled bleary-eyed into their showers, hoping to rinse away the iniquities of the Riviera night and be clean and renewed before the next round of briefings and round tables began.
But nothing came out.
They pulled, prodded and poked, but all that emanated from the bathroom chrome was an asthmatic hiss, a dribble of remnant fluid and that tell-tale gurgle that confirms water supply failure.
Our team’s group WhatsApp chat sprang into life:
“No water coming out of my taps now… Insiders be stinky.”
“I just went for a run :-(”
“Maybe go to the swimming pool?”
“You’ll smell of chlorine.”
“That’s better than how I smell now after my run.”
“How about a ‘festival wash’ with wet wipes? I can get some.”
“If anyone is really desperate I have bottled water.”
“The press room is going to be fruity today.”
The hotel confirms there is a burst pipe in the local area. They are very, very sorry but they have no idea how long it is going to take before the water comes back on.
It is remarkable how easily you can come take something so essential for granted.
Yet when what is missing really is essential, it is also remarkable how quickly people can adapt and improvise.
I am sitting in our press room in the bowels of the Fairmont surrounded by baby wipes and bottles of Evian that some have used for Cleopatra-style ablutions.
The baby wipes make you smell of strawberries. If this continues you won’t have to look out for the red polo shirts of the Insider team – if you are downwind you will be able to smell them coming.
In our industry it is capital that cascades like water, flowing abundantly down from the capital markets towards risk. It forms pools in ILS, ponds in specialty, lakes in reinsurance and seas and oceans in P&C and life insurance. It flows so abundantly that we take it for granted
If the taps were turned off it would take a while for a shortage to become apparent.
Big seas of capital are ecosystems that can be self-sufficient for long periods.
If we run our businesses well we can make what evaporates off the surface re-condense as the rain of surplus profit, ready to water and nourish new industry growth.
The problem is that our rate of return is not currently good enough to top us up to healthy levels.
Today, if we boil off too much, rationing may ensue.
But as evidenced by the swift innovations of the Insider team this morning, scarcity is the true mother of invention.
New pools of capital are sought out: how about the swimming pool?
New delivery methods: will buckets and watering cans be enough, or shall we lay a new pipe?
Then we quickly get into product and quality control: how do we get the swimming pool water to stop smelling of chlorine and what if we could make it drinkable?
Or how about alternatives? Maybe we don’t need water at all? Maybe alcohol-based wet wipes will do the job just as well – but how do we stop them smelling so strongly of strawberries?
Any lesson learned should be remembered.
Capital may be abundant today, but it might not always be. Run your business as if there were no new capital available and it will make you much more resilient and innovative.
The indignity of the strawberry-scented Rendez-Vous festival wash or traversing Casino Square smelling of chlorine is not ideal – but it is far more civilised than the foul aroma of the alternative.