Every conference has a special heart beat. Last week’s SALT conference in Las Vegas helped attendees with advice on how to place their best bets in business today.
The elegant Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas is the perfect setting for SALT, a creative financial forum sponsored by Skybridge Capital that features high-caliber talent and content from the alternative investment industry.
Skybridge founder Anthony Scaramucci started the three-day conference in May, 2009 with 400 attendees in Las Vegas focused on the hedge fund community but this well suited, alpha-male dominated gathering of 1,800 from more than 40 countries now has something for everyone — it is a crossroads of A-list figures in politics, entertainment, sports, and global entrepreneurship.
Everyone has one thing in common — risk-taking is a part of the daily life of every speaker and every attendee, so gathering data to uncover new opportunities, close deals, or fine-tune skills is a priority.
There are no “Bros” with baseball caps, T-shirts or flip flops leisurely gliding through sessions here with extreme dreams. This place — with its trading screens dotting the refined refreshment lounges — provides a detailed, real-time analysis of market success.
Speakers have ranged from every top-ranked Hedge Fund founder to former national leaders such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Al Gore. Other celebrities who have attended include General David Petraeus, Sir Richard Branson, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, and Kobe Bryant, among many others.
Each speaker is generally interviewed by someone with knowledge of their line of work. The setting helps them informally share how they achieved their grand ambitions as well as techniques they continue to apply to bounce back from disaster and maintain their creative edge. The observations are candid, insightful and at times quite “salty.” Even better, each speaker seems to agree that the United States is the best place on earth for broad-based entrepreneurial success.
This message of embracing risk is a critical one to promote.
As the audience at SALT grows and encompasses more women and multicultural attendees, the conference will be able to circulate entrepreneurial ambitions to more target groups.
This year, almost every financial speaker acknowledged the challenge of a subdued profit landscape and presidential campaign volatility in the U.S.
David Rubenstein, founder of Carlyle Private Equity, opened with a strong message of the value of charitable giving and an appeal to financial professionals to carve out time to reach out to media, political leaders and influencers to explain the valuable contribution financial markets make to growing economies.
Former House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that while he is a Republican, he is an American first. He will support Donald Trump, in spite of doubts about his policies.
Sam Zell, Boone Pickens and former Clinton economic adviser Larry Summers decried mountains of costly new regulations afflicting the economy. They believe that far from protecting the public, many regulations are now strangling small companies, new entrepreneurial opportunity, and investment growth. Michael Bloomberg lamented the limitations on creativity due to campus political correctness.
Their views on politics differed, but Pickens was most open about his support for “something new,” and the most enthusiastic to see Trump in the White House.
Of course, he admitted that at 88 years old, he had less skin in the game as might not be around if it didn’t work out.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban relished his role on CNBC’s Shark Tank, which provides a platform for small businesses to seek funding opportunities. He observed that the weight of regulations in the economy wasn’t just adding costs to business but is encouraging mergers instead of new IPOs — sadly, the U.S. is losing out on new company creation and millions of jobs. So the big get bigger and the small often don’t get started.
Polls show that 37 percent of Americans now believe the financial services industry has a good reputation, up from a dismal low of only 11 percent in the post-crisis environment of 2009.
Here’s hoping the messages coming out of the more sober and measured financial professionals attending SALT are heeded, giving the country a chance for more people to access economic opportunity.
Clara E. Del Villar is a senior Business Executive with a 28-year career in global capital markets, banking, investment management, business development and marketing strategy. Currently, she is Founder of nonprofit, the Hispanic Free Market Network and formerly Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the Hispanic Post (www.hispanicpost.com) which provided online business news, information and services such as digital apprenticeships and social media training for the Hispanic business community.