The New World Gold Council
In the early morning of Friday May 7, I arrived at the World Gold Council's office in London to discover two things. The first was that the UK Treasury had put out a press release in joining the world it intended selling more than half of Britain's gold reserves. The second, rather more pleasant, was that a draft press statement in response to this was already on my desk. By early afternoon our views were being circulated to the world 's press and my colleagues and I were conducting media interviews left, right and centre. The rest is almost – but not quite yet - history.
Why do mention this incident? Not f om boastfulness, because we all at the WGC are highly conscious of how much work we have yet to do, to remind the world's central bankers and other official holders of gold of the sound reasons why they should continue to do so.
Rather I highlight it to try to indicate to a possibly sceptical outside world just how the WGC has evolved, enabling it to respond swiftly and decisively to the news from the UK Treasury, and l know for a fact that our members - some of the world's biggest gold mining companies - were appreciative of this rapid rebuttal. At our recent Annual General Meeting - held in London on May 20-21 - one speaker suggested that the speed and firmness of the response reminded h.im of the media-savvy of 'new' Labour under Tony Blair. Given the persuasive success of the Labour spin-doctoring machine at the last general election, I take that as a compliment.
But the WGC has changed and will continue to develop in more fundamental and important respects than taking the initiative with the world's media, important though that is. My central mission is to grow the organisation's membership so that the WGC's role as the only global advocate for gold is put on a wider and firmer footing. To that end, I have had and will continue to have close, regular contact with not only existing but potential members. Existing ' members who attended the AG.M could sense the reinvigorated spirit abroad in the leaner, more energetic Council; potential members will. I hope to be alive to the efforts being made by Council staff on their behalf.
But there is only one way of expanding the Council 's membership - by proving to those non-members that this is an association with real benefits. We at the Council office, in other words, enter into much closer relationships with gold mining companies, so that we understand them and their needs, and that they are best able to utilise our collective skills. Th.is process of greater interaction between members and Cow1cil staff has already begun and I hope will continue.
In terms of our practical activities, we have already gone far in grappling with the big issues facing the gold world - the threatened sales by the Swiss National Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and now the UK Treasury - by researching and publishing what we believe are objective yet relevant studies. One major effort of the Council over the next 12 months will be to dig into precisely what role the derivatives market plays. We are imminently publishing a report on the importance of gold mining for developing economies, which has been given extra significance by the announced intention of the IMF to sell some of its gold. We shall continue to monitor and work on the developing situation inside Switzerland.
We have conducted opinion polls in Europe (including the UK) and the US to try to gauge (and then publish) what ordinary citizens think of government moves which diminish the role of gold as a reserve asset. Advertising campaigns in various media have continued the offensive. In the pipeline are yet more creative media -related ideas, designed to extend our efforts beyond that of firefighting and into promoting greater gold demand, by increasing the broadest possible public understanding of gold 's historic and future importance.
The Council is in a process of metamorphosis, shedding its former low profile with respect to the media and adopting a more pro-active approach whenever problem s appear. Under my leadership, we shall continue to evangelise on behalf of gold in all its uses, but with greater vigour, determination, and alacrity, and thereby, hopefully, convince those who have remained on the side-lines that it is an organisation which has their interests at heart. Such a corporate change cannot be affected overnight, but an enthusiastic start has already been made.