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Man Booker Prize 2017: Luke Ellis' speech

17 October 2017

Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. We at Man Group are delighted to welcome you all here this evening, and are extremely proud to be sponsoring the world’s foremost literary prize for a fifteenth year. Over the years, we’ve been asked many times about why the Man Booker Prize is so important to us. At a time when markets are uncertain and investment complexities are growing, why would an investment management firm like ours put our efforts into supporting a prize dedicated to celebrating literary talent?

We believe in nurturing and celebrating intellectual capital. Good isn’t good enough for us, we want to be excellent in all we do. We want our colleagues to be able to articulate their thoughts with creativity, constantly questioning the world around them. We have to see and interpret situations on many levels – both the obvious headline but also understanding the subtlety of competing narratives.

And these are all the things we all do when we read great novels and that we celebrate tonight by recognising the truly excellent.

Indeed, the ability to view the world through different lenses matters more than ever. We are in a period of fast and relentless change. Technology is revolutionising the way we interact, consume information, do business – invest. I talk every day to clients and colleagues about the opportunities and threats from the ‘disruptive innovation’ of machine learning – what some incorrectly refer to as “artificial intelligence”. It seems like nothing stays new for long.

But it strikes me that novels celebrate the things that machines are never likely to be able to replicate – giving us access to the imaginative worlds of the human mind, to challenge and confront us with the power of expression. There is also a permanence to the written word which I think sits in contrast with the rapidly-shifting landscape around us.

In this context, we believe businesses like Man have an important duty to support progress in education at every level: from prizes like this which recognise global talent, to our more local initiatives in schools and universities. It is the right thing to do and goes beyond the “checking the box” of corporate responsibility. Charitable giving must be firmly embedded in the culture of every company if we are to address the many challenges and injustices facing our world today.

But it is also in our interest – in all our interests – to encourage and promote literary and academic endeavours in all their forms. And we must think globally and openly, not locally so that future leaders resist the urge to parochialism of which we see so much today. If we really want the best leaders, thinkers and innovators for tomorrow – this is where we must all focus our efforts, and at Man Group we hope to play a role in fostering a diverse and meritocratic environment for the next generation.

For now, let me say again how honoured we are to be a part of the Man Booker Prize. Looking around the room tonight, we are extremely privileged to be among some of today’s leading literary minds. We hope you have a wonderful evening, in celebration of their exceptional achievements

Thank you.

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