Katie Trotter: It's a beautiful thing

Beauty: probably the most poorly defined word in the English language, and certainly one that causes us to question the basic principles of taste. But what is it? A science based on symmetry? An innate attraction to cues learnt as a baby? Or simply a visual experience or form that in one way or another returns to nature?

Growing up we often confuse beauty with adoration or idolisation. My mother was definitely beautiful, yet somehow unobtainable. I needed something more reachable, and her name was Lisa. Lisa was 17 to my 12, all poodle perm and pink lace. She taught me the lyrics to Eternal Flame and how to back-comb my hair. She was my quintessential heroine - just about everything I wished the years I so painfully had to wait for would be kind enough to give me.

Of course it wasn't only her insuppressible beauty or her perfect bird's nest of black-as-your-boot curls that got to me. It was more her utter sense of freedom, and the way men looked at her when we walked home from school, and how perfectly unaware she was of those stolen glances - all of which I had yet to experience.

I also remember when my preconceived notions of beauty were first challenged. It was July of 1990, and the third Summer of Love edition of the British fashion magazine The Face hit the stands. On the cover was the soon-to-be-imperfect supermodel Kate Moss, barely 16, stripped bare apart from a few bits of vintage-looking finds from Portobello Market and leaping around a frigid beach all bowlegged, freckles and awkward gappy smile. It was nothing like I had ever seen before - miles away from the overindulgent "supermodel in exotic location" we were used to.

I didn't know what beauty was back then but I knew that was as close as I had seen it. Whatever it was it forced me to sit up in my seat. I also knew whatever it was I needed to follow it. Which I did.

You see, beauty lingers. It stays with us long after we first experience it, running hand in hand with romantic notion and melancholy.

To this day I can still feel the rush of dopamine that Lisa gave me. I often wonder where she is now or if she had any idea of the effect she had on me, but I'd probably only be disappointed. Because most of the time the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystery.


This week's highs and lows

CARMEN DELL'OREFICE The woman seems to never age! If anything she looks better at 80 than 60.

SHEER TIGHTS Who needs rips and abnormally glossy legs when you can just use body make-up?

MODEL POTENTIAL The new iPhone app that has partnered with Select Models in London allows users to upload their details to send off to scouts.

TOO TIGHT CLOTHING Why is Kim Kardashian wearing this painfully small get-up? We fear the zip's going to pop.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER Our favourite kooky celeb is in Marc Jacobs's new ad campaign.


Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh 

Rating: 5/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”