Breakingviews’ song remains the same 22 years on

A picture taken in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Rob Cox

ZURICH, March 30 (Reuters Breakingviews) - It is easy to get nostalgic when cleaning out a desk. Especially when its drawers contain the artefacts of more than two decades of business and financial history.

There are the files from a 2007 trip to Palo Alto to visit a startup run by a hoodie-wearing Harvard dropout, notes from an interview with Russia’s central bank president, even some off-the-record jottings from a media chat with the pugnacious boss of a Wall Street firm, conducted weeks before his storied bank collapsed spectacularly in September 2008.

There’s a treasure trove of business cards: The Merrill Lynch equities guy who would go on to become chief executive of UBS (UBSG.S), and the first female chief financial officer of a Wall Street firm, whose career would be prematurely submerged by the Lehman Brothers tsunami. Other curios, like a commemorative notebook from Saudi Arabia’s first Future Investment Initiative, make me wonder whether there may be a market for non-fungible tokens of corporate finance memorabilia.

What connects all this stuff accumulated over the past 22 years is Breakingviews. As I step aside from the publication I co-founded, built and ran during years spanning the dot-com bubble, great financial crisis, European sovereign debt scare, Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, the nostalgia fades into pure excitement for what my successors and their successors will discover when they eventually clear out their own desks in the decades to come.

Readers of Breakingviews – a privileged class that I shall continue to aspire to – have had a better-than-front-row view of the vicissitudes of global finance since we started publishing in July 2000 from a cramped townhouse on the edge of the City of London. Breakingviews customers have been both witnesses to history and participants in the action.

That’s not simply because we managed to retain key editorial talent: nearly half of Breakingviews’ top columnists and editors have bylines going back more than a dozen years. Reuters’ ownership since 2009 helped us expand globally and ensure we occupied prime real estate on the desks of financial professionals, who continue to consume our agenda-setting commentary as customers of Refinitiv, now part of the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG.L), and Reuters.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to the many newspaper partners who supported us in the early years, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, la Repubblica, Le Monde, Handelsblatt and others in Europe and Asia that carried Breakingviews-branded columns. They supported a digital editorial upstart, even as they struggled with the collapsing print businesses that had financed their reporting resources for a century.

But the main reason Breakingviews is still a respected brand among the global financial community are its value propositions, which our founding Chairman Hugo Dixon championed, and which remain unchanged. From the start, our mission has been to produce agenda-setting financial insight, which means to be first with the intelligent view (we added “intelligent” after fast-but-noisy Twitter came along), provide value for time and analytical depth, and do it in an enjoyable way.

This is not to suggest we are standing still. To reach new, more diverse, and younger readers, Breakingviews and Reuters will almost certainly need to consider changes to the way it delivers its brand of insight. The email alerts we pioneered two decades ago – long before the current vogue for newsletters – can be reimagined. The 350-word considered view, which offers what some newcomers like to call smart brevity, has been our hallmark since day one. But that still leaves room for longer columns that explore financial matters with greater voice and specialised insight.

Alas, those decisions, be they minor tweaks or wholesale innovations, will be made by my successors – the 30-odd editors and columnists who will collectively continue to deliver the smartest, timeliest insights on money to be found anywhere in the media landscape.

So, as I toss the paper archives accumulated during 22 years in New York, London, Paris and now Zurich into boxes for safekeeping, the shredder or the bin, I feel energised, eager and curious to know what the editors who follow me will uncover on cleanout day from their desks.

There won’t be so many business cards, I am pretty sure. No spent BlackBerry devices. Probably fewer brochures titled “Invest in Russia”, like the one I uncovered from the Russian Direct Investment Fund. And I pray they will not find any talking President Donald Trump pens like the one our columnist in Washington, D.C. gifted me a few years ago.

What I do know is that Breakingviews readers will continue to find and receive insights that deliver those value propositions on whatever fresh hell of a crisis or nascent opportunity – and everything in between – stands ahead of global economies, corporate finance and international markets in the decades to come. Good luck, guys.

Follow @rob1cox on Twitter

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Oliver Taslic

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Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.