Topics such as health and wellness are set to be the focus when heavyweights of the region’s finance industry gather in Abu Dhabi this week at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa summit.
Topics such as “Sleep Strategies for Peak Performance” hosted by sleep specialist Michael Breus and “Mental Wellness in the Gulf” will be conducted alongside sessions on private equity, development finance and real estate. Wellness expert Deepak Chopra will address participants at the event, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Understanding future trends in health – people living longer, demographic shift – all of that is going to have major implications for the investing world, particularly if you look at it by region,” said Katie O’Reilly, executive director of business and programme development at the Milken Institute.
“I would say it’s something that more and more our financial sponsors are interested in both talking about and understanding," she added. "I think a lot of the hedge funds and CEOs of private equity funds are interested in that topic for personal reasons and it’s always been a popular agenda item, particularly at our global conference”.
The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted significant downside risks that health can have on the global economy, but Ms O'Reilly said the institute's focus on health and wellness has been much more long-term. Its chairman, Michael Milken, has been "talking about human capital as our most important asset" for the 13 years that she has been working at the organisation.
"In terms of wellness, I think that’s an increasing focus of the institute," she said. "We have two centres that are dedicated to it – a centre for public health in Washington and a centre called Faster Cures which looks at accelerating medical research and disease research. We are looking at a partnership in the region to work on mental health in particular that will be looking at the impacts on the youth population."
The event has a diverse range of speakers, including well-known names from the world of finance such as Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio, Apollo Global Management's chairman and chief executive, Leon Black and Mubadala Investment Company's group chief executive, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Senior regional business personalities include Alshaya Group chairman Mohammed Alshaya, Investcorp chairman Mohammed Alardhi and the chief executive of Gems Education, Dino Varkey.
The list of speakers will also feature other famous names that give an idea of the eclectic nature of the event. For instance, a panel on this year's US election includes the 54th Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan. A segment on the lives of elite athletes following their retirement from sport will be attended by former footballers Nicolas Anelka, Dider Drogba and Clarence Seedorf, as well as ex-heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko. Mr Klitschko also appears on a separate Sport Leaders' Roundtable event with the Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
Paris Hilton, the chief executive of Paris Hilton Entertainment, is due to speak about women and entrepreneurship and well-being in the digital era, while Napster founder Sean Parker appears on a panel debating the new age of consumerism.
Ms O'Reilly's advice to event attendees is "not sticking to one track".
"Something we do really well is the diversity of programming," she said.
Although investors still make up the bulk of attendees, Ms O'Reilly said the diversity of the event's output is important.
"We attract so many people in finance," she said. "In their day-to-day [lives] they are working in their own silos and looking specifically at the areas they are invested in. We are trying to give them the broadest education possible and get them out of their silos."
The invitation-only event is expected to attract about 1,000 participants and takes place at the St Regis Saadiyat Island.