Israel Blogging: Other Rough Conference Thoughts

Some thoughts and tidbits from the Israel Rough Conference:

– Rio Tinto and BHP were both no-shows, apparently because of the BHP’s attempted takeover. [UPDATE: Apparently, someone from Rio was in the audience, though he did not speak at the conference.]

– ABN-AMRO’s diamond and jewelry division has now officially confirmed it is moving to Fortis.

– DTC managing director Varda Shine said that investigative agency Kroll wouldn’t be double-checking every DTC client profile, just a “representative sample.”

– The plight of artisanal diggers was brought up exactly twice. While you don’t expect to see a dollar-a-day digger up on stage with a laptop, artisanal miners do produce an estimated ten percent of this industry’s output, and it would be nice to have that issue addressed more in-depth at future rough conferences.

– This industry still misses the De Beers cartel pretty badly. This was apparent throughout the conference. First, there was the calls for an industry-wide generic marketing effort.  Even Lev “The Man Who Broke The De Beers Cartel” Leviev, in his speech, seemed to be pining for a simpler time, and at one point he called on producers to adopt a “uniform marketing strategy.” (He later insisted he didn’t mean a cartel, but it is hard to see the difference.)

– I was impressed with Israeli Diamond Institute chairman Eli Avidar, and the ways Israeli manufacturers in general were finding creative ways to deal with a new reality which doesn’t necessarily favor them.

– Finally, much of the conference was — oh, how can I put this kindly — incredibly boring. And I am not the only one who feels this way.

The fault wasn’t with the moderator, or the speakers, and certainly not the subject matter. It was with the format. It was all speeches, some of which were just glorified commercials for their companies. Conferences work best when there is interplay, when we hear debate and disagreement, when people talk frankly and we hear the unexpected.  There was little of that here. (A rare suprising moment came from Namdeb’s Inge Zaamwani. Asked who the top-ranking woman at De Beers was, she said “the consumer.”)

It wasn’t all bad — Gareth Penny always gives good Powerpoint. But when getting cross-examined by airport security on my way out of Israel, the El Al security woman seemed incredulous that I was just at a conference featuring two days of speeches about rough diamond production. “It was kind of boring,” I said. “Sure sounds like it,” she responded. Actually, it didn’t have to be that way. But it was.

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