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24 October 2019

WFS 2019 - A resounding, sustainable success!

Four Industry meetings, two Specialized Tracks, eight “Meet the experts” sessions, one High Impact Seminar, more than 950 participants. These are just some of the numbers that made another very successful World Financial Symposium, which took place in Miami on 25 and 26 September 2019. For its 6th edition, the not-to-miss event for the airline financial community addressed the topic of sustainability under the theme “Shaping a Sustainable Future, together: Airlines. IATA. Partners”.

Industry Meetings

The venue was buzzing with activity even before the event officially started. As every year, the SIS and Interline Billing and Settlement Operations General Meetings took place before WFS. Such General Meetings are critical to the industry and always a very good opportunity to network and exchange ideas. 

Global Fraud Prevention Forum

This year again, the Global Fraud Prevention Forum offered great sessions. Participants were able to surf through a variety of topics ranging from cybercrime economy and its impact on fraud by Professor Dr. Michael McGuire from the University of Surrey, to the repercussions or romance frauds, by Detective Isaac Branch from NYPD. The event culminated with a brilliant presentation on the impact of the mythic Trojan Horse on today’s fraud. 
A record 230 participants attended this 3rd edition of the event, with satisfaction scores higher than ever.

Industry Taxation Forum

Over 100 taxation experts from all over the world gathered during the week of WFS to attend the Industry Taxation Forum. Participants had the opportunity to discuss tax policy and compliance, as well as to share best practices and views on campaigns. They also heard about priorities and key strategies to ensure fair tax treatment of international air transport. The agenda covered both global issues, spanning from environment-related taxes to the taxation of e-commerce, and regional updates.
Another great success for the third edition of the Industry Taxation Forum!

World Financial Symposium

Key message
Sustainability was addressed from many different perspectives: financial sustainability, operational sustainability, and of course environmental sustainability. And the key message emerged loud and clear: the connection between environmental sustainability and financial health is strong, and IATA, supported by the Industry Financial Advisory Council and its Working Groups, plays a critical role in translating this connection into action plans for a safe, secure, and sustainable air transport industry.
Opening plenary
The symposium opened with Avianca’s CEO Anko van der Werff, who, in what he called a “love letter to the industry”, stressed the critical role of Finance in helping the industry make the right decisions and avoid the traps of growth for the sake of growth. 
It continued with an inspiring keynote from Susan McPherson from McPherson Strategies on the growing link between sustainability and leadership, where she highlighted how shareholders’ value is no longer the only drive for businesses. 
Brandon Nelson, JetBlue’s General Counsel & Corporate Secretary shared the airline’s sustainability journey and Alex Malfitani, CEO of Azul told the story of how they went from being a startup to become a real platform. Many points of view from many different perspectives, all equally inspiring and reinforcing the message that sustainability is not a nice to have, but a critical feature of today’s businesses, and aviation is no exception.
The Opening Plenary concluded with Michael Doersam, Chair of the IATA Industry Financial Advisory Councils (FinAC), who gave an overview of the industry’s achievements over the past 6 months, presented the new IATA strategy for a safe, secure and sustainable air transport industry, and highlighted the challenges that the industry is currently facing, namely new technology, access to and retention of top talents, and needless to say, sustainability. 
Specialized Tracks
Two specialized tracks ran in parallel on Payment and Financial Risk Management. The Payment Track was dominated by three recurring themes, that are at the heart of today’s payment landscape: the digital revolution, the need for an integrated vision for payments, and customer centricity.
Technology played a prominent role also in the Financial Risk Management Track, with Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence being at the top of the list of disruptors, but also of opportunities for treasurers. The need for talent which can deal with both financial and technological topics was raised in many presentations, as well as the importance of having a holistic view on cash movements.
High Impact Seminar
During WFS once more, a private session for CFOs and Senior Financial Executives was held under the label of High Impact Seminar. This years’ edition was nothing short of the best one ever! Once again, sustainability was at the heart of the discussions. It opened with Tammy Weinbaum from American Express, who also sponsored the event, sharing their strategy for a responsible business, and how it combines profit and customer needs.
It continued with a very insightful presentation from McKinsey’s Alex Dichter on the drivers of airlines success: Growth with Purpose, Pushing Ancillaries to the next level, Increase customer pull, Build pockets of privilege, Treat fleet strategy as an existential decision, Lead in organizational health. 
Brian Pearce, IATA’s Chief Economist, told the captivating story of the link between sustainability and financial performance: whilst the industry is doing a lot to reduce its CO2 emissions, efforts are still not enough and CORSIA and the development of bio-fuels are the way forward.
The High Impact Seminar concluded with a top-level panel discussion involving Brian Pearce, Karen Clayton (IATA’s Corporate Secretary), Alex Dichter and Erik Swelheim (CFO of KLM). The panel provided unique, top-level views on how the topics of environment and sustainability are shaping the discussions in the Board room and affecting the image of airlines. Fleet and operations-related decisions are certainly impacted, and so is talent attraction and retention, particularly with relations to younger staff, who are more sensitive to environmental concerns.
With its 2019 edition, the High Impact Seminar has established itself as the not-to-be-missed event for top airlines finance executives.
Meet the Experts Sessions
Eight “Meet the Experts” sessions took place on day 2, where participants had the opportunity to have a dialogue with top-industry experts on hot topics such as:

Closing Plenary
The event closed on day 2 with a captivating series of speakers offering diverse and insightful views. Kat Morse, IATA’s Innovation Manager, presented a new latest addition to the IATA Innovation Ecosystem: Accelerate@IATA. A dynamic program allowing airlines to partner with start-up to deliver accelerated innovation. 
Alyson Genovese from Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) inspired the audience by telling them all about how to build a good business. One that does not forget ethics, people, and of course sustainability.
The closing plenary continued with IATA’s Robert Boyle, who talked about the fascinating world of Sustainable Alternative Fuels (SAF), how far technology has gone in this area, and how further we can expect it to go in the future. SAF are clearly the way forward to allow airlines to continue being the business of freedom, while ensuring a safe, secure and sustainable industry.
Last but certainly not least, Michael Doersam came back on stage to present the next steps for the air transport industry to shape a sustainable future, together. The FinAC will play a key role by leading the industry first and foremost in driving the implementation of the IATA strategic roadmap. Success will be defined not only by what the industry does, but also by how it does it. Inclusion of environmental topics across the organization and in the ecosystem, engagement with people who want to make a difference, engagement with partners leveraging on common goals and sustainability, and engagement with a larger audience on the industry’s initiatives and story are key areas of focus going forward.
And the next stop is…
The event closed with the announcement eagerly awaited by all: where will WFS 2020 take place? 
We are looking forward to seeing you in Dubai, UAE, on 29 September - 1 October 2020, please save the date!

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