Political Analysis: Anticipate, Analyse, Explain.

I was asked by a City-type some years ago: “What distinguishes a good political analyst from an average one?”.

My answer, after some careful thought, was: “Gut instinct”.

Whether one agrees with this or not may depend on one’s definition of “gut instinct”. Mine is as follows:

“Gut instinct is the conscious manifestation of one’s subconscious grinding over one’s accumulated knowledge.”

To the purist, this may seem a strange way of working, often involving “reverse engineering” to understand — and explain — how one reached the conclusion on the table. And, for sure, very often it is not only unnecessary but inappropriate. Nevertheless, be it through building a “bottom up” analysis or through the analytical equivalent of a quantum jump, the wealth of “accumulated knowledge” acquired during two decades’ experience working for the British foreign service and for over 15 years in the financial services sector worldwide is central to my expertise. Indeed, I regard it as essential in a field which is seldom linear and which has a logic of its own which can often seem utterly irrational when viewed from a business or ‘pure’ economic perspective.  

Furthermore, my experience brings with it a second asset which is just as important, ie networks. Even more than my knowledge and analytical abilities, I value the network of well-informed individuals worldwide with whom I remain in touch on a regular basis, sharing thoughts about what is really going on in an increasingly fast-moving, complex and hard-to-comprehend world.

This is, in my view, massively important. In the 24/7 news flow- and social network-dominated context in which business operates today, my job is: 

  • To get behind, if not ahead of, the politics and policy headlines and sort out the wheat from the chaff;
  • To set out clearly and succinctly what is really going on and where it is likely to lead; and,
  • To ensure that, as far as political issues are concerned, you are, therefore, in the best position to make the decisions which could prove essential to the profitability of your business.

In short: Anticipate, Analyse, Explain.

To this end, much of Alavan’s current work is with the financial sector — insurance as well as banking. 

As a completely independent consultancy, Alavan is free to work for clients across the full spectrum of the financial services sector — banks, brokers, fund managers, insurance etc — be it on one-off studies, regular updates or special events. I currently have a number of such commissions, including presentations at major conferences.  Some examples of recent publications  and speaking engagements can be found at News & Events.

Furthermore, Alavan does not restrict its offering to the financial sector. I understand fully — not least based on my extensive experience promoting foreign direct investment at the OECD in the first half of the 1990s and for the British government’s business development agency, UKTI, in the United States a decade later — that understanding ‘local’ politics is particularly important for inward investors irrespective of sector.   

Whether you are a portfolio or foreign direct investor, here I bring an additional part of my “accumulated knowledge” into play based on my time with African Development Corporation from 2008 to 2015, for the last three of which I chaired the supervisory board, which I have carried forward including into my current role as Chair of the board of the Lusaka-based 30Thirty Inclusion Fund. It has given me a solid understanding of what senior executives need to know in terms of politics and policy to help them make the ‘right’ decision, be it relative to portfolio investments or the longer-term development and day-to-day management of assets on the ground.

Alastair Newton

January 2019