This issue is introduced by Thomas Kendall, Chair of LBMA's Public Affairs Committee and Global Head of Precious Metals Sales, ICBC Standard Bank Plc.

Thomas Kendall

By Thomas Kendall
Chair of LBMA's Public Affairs Committee and Global Head of Precious Metals Sales, ICBC Standard Bank Plc

As Adrian Ash ably describes in '50 Years On, Who Killed Gold Money?', it is 50 years since President Nixon broke the US dollar’s convertibility to gold, precipitating the end of the Bretton Woods international monetary system.

It seems appropriate therefore to borrow one of Nixon’s memorable quotes:

"We are not spending the Federal Government’s money, we are spending the taxpayer’s money, and it must be spent in a way which guarantees his money’s worth and yields the fullest possible benefit to the people being helped." Richard M. Nixon

Since the global financial crisis and the advent of quantitative easing, governments have been spending not just taxpayer’s money, but money created directly to solve the global liquidity problem and to subsequently stimulate aggregate demand.

It is difficult, however, to cure the economic disease when the diagnosis is unclear. Investors today grapple with more questions about the worth of money, and who ultimately benefits from government spending, than at any time since Nixon left office.

Are inflationary pressures transitory or becoming entrenched? Are monetary, fiscal and direct stimuli preventing wealth gaps from widening or exacerbating them? Is today’s monetary system still fit for purpose? Should we be more concerned about the societal effects of Covid-19 or the societal effects of the apparently unlimited debt creation by governments?

In this highly uncertain environment, a little historical perspective can go a long way. So we are delighted to have secured participation in this year’s virtual Annual Precious Metals Conference from some of the most knowledgeable market participants and thinkers. Indeed, one of the advantages of a ‘virtual’ conference format is that it has facilitated the participation of such a high-quality group speakers and panellists.

We are delighted to have secured participation in this year’s virtual annual precious metals conference from some of the most knowledgeable market participants and thinkers

The opening session on Monday 20 September will bring together Avinash Persaud (Professor Emeritus, Gresham College), Joachim Nagel (Deputy Head, Banking, Bank for International Settlements) and Philipp Hildebrand (Vice Chairman, Blackrock) for a high-powered discussion about the global economic outlook. Helping to keep the conversation grounded will be well-known CNN business correspondent Richard Quest.

That will provide a great foundation for the second session, which will focus on the relevance of precious metals as investment assets in today’s economic landscape. Providing that much-needed historical perspective and insight will be one of the foremost economists with a specific interest in gold, Barry Eichengreen (Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkley). Marrying his thoughts with those of one of the best-known precious metals investors, Dwight Anderson (Founder and Portfolio Manager, Ospraie Management LLC), will create a fertile brew of ideas, with John Reade (World Gold Council) helping to stir the pot.

Barry Eichengreen (Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkley)

Of course, the attraction of precious metals for investors is often that they are physical assets, and those have to be mined, recycled and refined. The upstream fundamental supply side of the business will feature heavily on Tuesday 21 September.

The day will begin with a discussion of the outlook for the global platinum group metals sector. Both sides of the supply coin will be ably covered by Oliver Krestin (Managing Director, Hensel Recycling) and Emma Townshend (Executive, Corporate Affairs, Impala Platinum). Key trends in automotive demand will be addressed by Andy Walker (Technical Marketing Director, Johnson Matthey Plc), an executive who has been at the forefront of the autocatalyst industry for many years. They will be ably marshalled by Rupen Raithatha (Johnson Matthey’s Market Research Director).

The challenges facing the global mining industry are many, and the pandemic has intensified many of these. But such challenges create an entrepreneurial, problem-solving mindset in the industry, which is also often in the vanguard of anticipating and responding to ESG and sustainability issues.

To discuss these, we are delighted to have a tremendously experienced group of executives, including Mark Bristow (President and CEO, Barrick Gold), who will open the session with a keynote address. He will then be joined by Natascha Viljoen (CEO, Anglo American Platinum), Martin Horgan (CEO, Centamin Plc) and LBMA’s Chairman, Paul Fisher, with Roger Baxter (CEO, Minerals Council South Africa) tasked with drawing out some common themes.

That will be followed by a complementary session to explore responsible sourcing, sustainability and ESG in more detail, with contributions from, amongst others, the OECD, with Nitesh Shah, Director of Research at global ETF group WisdomTree, adding an institutional investor’s perspective.

Nothing can replicate face-to-face conversations, but with an exceptional line-up of speakers, panellists and guest chairs, and opportunities to participate in Q&A breakout sessions and speed networking, we hope that this year’s Conference will provide delegates with a valuable opportunity to interact with their peers from the global precious metals market. Our guest speakers cannot provide all the answers, but at the very least, they will help us to think more clearly about what the key questions are and, on behalf of LBMA, I would like to thank them all in advance for their input.

Thomas Kendall

By Thomas Kendall
Chair of LBMA's Public Affairs Committee and Global Head of Precious Metals Sales, ICBC Standard Bank Plc