OPINION: Pass the cappuccino

Fiona RintoulDid you know that business people who do not have a base in London can spend up to £6,000 a year putting off time between meetings? This is according to research “with 156 professional businessmen and businesswomen without an office in London” commissioned by The Clubhouse.

I believe all the business people surveyed were British. Other nationalities may be more frugal – or less. Either way, on average, the business people spent £700 per week in London, 16% of which was deemed unnecessary and simply to pass the time.

Now, we could solve this problem by decentralising the UK economy. As you may know, the UK government is already on the case. It is creating a Northern Powerhouse somewhere up north and has ppointed a minister and everything.

Or we could solve it by regulating the price of cappuccino. For cappuccino, along with tea, snacks, newspapers and taxis, seems to be the main culprit in the unnecessary expenditure department, the other items that make up the £700 (overnight accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner) being, to my mind at least, nonnegotiable necessities.

Or we could solve it by creating a network of Clubhouses across London that provide “a professional, business-focused alternative in which to work or meet all of your business contacts such as clients, colleagues, investors, suppliers and partners”. This is what The Clubhouse intends to do. And to that end, it is seeking to raise cash from its members and external investors on the Seedrs crowdfunding platform – hence the research, I guess. 

Best of luck to The Clubhouse. But I do have a couple of issues with its research.

First, having worked in central London for 15 years, I know that it is quite possible to have a central London base and nonetheless to waste time and money in the “cafés, hotel lobbies, clubs, bars and restaurants” cited as prime squandering venues. In fact, it’s rather fun. I do wonder, therefore, if “the entrepreneurs [who] are also wasting up to three hours a week of productivity (or 156 hours a year)” aren’t rather enjoying themselves and may not particularly want to be corralled into “a luxurious, professional space with complimentary WiFi, refreshments, tea, Nespresso coffee, and a dedicated team on hand to attend to your every need” – particularly as existing Clubhouse spaces are in Mayfair, which is surely a little passé, especially for entrepreneurs. Wouldn’t Haggerston have been a better choice?

Second, the annual cost of an individual club membership is £2,450 plus VAT. I’m not entirely sure what that includes, but it does equate to a lot of cappuccinos.

Perhaps The Clubhouse is just a gentlemen’s club by any other name. Or perhaps it is just another sign that the world has gone a bit bonkers.

In any case, it may not affect the fund industry. Another piece of heart-stopping research, released, coincidentally, within minutes of The Clubhouse research, shows that artificial intelligence is displacing active portfolio management.

In a survey of German institutional investors conducted by Universal Investment, almost all respondents predicted rising use of artificial intelligence in making investment decisions, with 62% predicting its use for short-term and 17% for medium-term investment decisions.

“Over two thirds of institutional investors believe that artificial intelligence is capable of accurately assessing emotional aspects such as greed or fear,” says Markus Neubauer, managing director of Universal Investment. “The industry’s future thus certainly appears to be closely linked with the strategic use of AI.”

This could threaten jobs. But look on thebright side. Robots don’t drink cappuccino.

Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe

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