Thirty Years of CLSA

by CLSA / Sep 18, 2016

Jonathan Slone, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CLSA


Welcome to the 23rd CLSA Investors’ Forum. Looking back on thirty years, it’s somewhat surprising that a brokerage house founded by two journalists with the simple concept that ideas mattered still survives today. Both Jim Walker and Gary Coull believed that there was a story to tell in Asia and that by building a business around people with strong ideas and an understanding of the dynamics in Asia they would succeed. Your CV didn’t matter it was not a question of where you went to school- it was more a matter of how you could pitch an idea in the morning meeting and how strongly you could argue you point over a pint. A tip at the track never hurt either.

After the crash in 1987, what was then CL Alexanders Laing and Cruickshank published the $500 Billion Dollar Underwriting, an analysis of the developing economy in China and the massive sum of capital it would require as it began to build its economic miracle we know today. At that time, the border in Shenzhen closed at 5 PM and it was not a well held belief that China was going anywhere. This report saw beyond the commonly held notions of China and instead looked very closely at the underlying dynamics that we beginning to develop not only in the world of business, but politics and larger society as well. This was a very hard argument to make at the time and while some people viewed it as a fantasy from a brokerage struggling to find its place in a crowded field, in hindsight it reads as a conservative but brilliantly forward looking piece of research.

So in thirty years nothing has changed much at this level at CLSA. We still very much believe in the power of ideas and despite the consequences of regulation run amok and financial markets which reward balance sheet and risk we stubbornly insist that analysis and look beyond the surface of numbers and headlines really counts. That is not to say that CLSA has not evolved to meet the challenges of today’s markets, but rather at our core we still enjoy sitting in a room and hashing out a great idea, hearing about how companies are innovating and meeting new challenges and resisting the easy path that supporting the status quo view often confers.

The CLSA Investor Forum is the perfect place to see our ideas at work. It would be easy to simply invite a bunch of companies, a keynote speaker or two and leave it at that. However, as many of your so often point out, it is the context that our non-company speakers provide that is in many ways why the Forum has become so successful. Whether it is clean disruption, the rise of Asia’s consumption class or the ideas of some of our Thursday keynotes on how they personally view the world and address challenges in the lives, we hope to provide a larger understanding of the dynamics of change and their financial consequence rather than focusing simply on the number and metrics. The over 1,400 clients attending are powerful reminder that ideas matter and analysis and research still can differentiate performance.

The CLSA Investors’ Forum delivers the vision that our founders built and that we deliver analysis and ideas that still provide value and context that helps drive outperformance. I am very confident that the world will not become one large correlated ETF and that black boxes will alpha that comes with understanding long term trends and the ever changing dynamics of how companies approach their marketplace.

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