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At Davos, it's not all about the money...seriously

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group, USA.
Source: Wikipedia
Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group, USA.

The World Economic Forum is teeming with elite investors this week, and it's not just to talk their own book.

"Davos," said Blackstone Group spokesman Peter Rose, "offers Steve [Schwarzman] an unparalleled opportunity in a highly efficient way to meet the leading politicians, business leaders, government officials, academics, central bankers and other thought leaders so as to better understand the myriad crosscurrents in the world's economies."

Indeed, most of the more than two dozen hedge and private equity fund managers—including Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, Paul Singer of Elliott Management and David Rubenstein of Carlyle Group—make the long trip to the Swiss Alps to actually think about investing in the year to come, not just to sell potential clients or show their macroeconomic smarts on stage.

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"It is a combination of networking, understanding the scope of views with respect to markets and the economy, and some out-of-the-box idea generation," explained the manager of a multibillion dollar firm who is avoiding media interviews.

"Going to Davos helps generate investment ideas and manage risk by giving attendees a better understanding of the global dynamics driving markets," added a handler for one of the prominent hedge fund managers in attendance but who is not speaking.

Of course, selling funds to the many huge institutions in Davos also factors in. There are chief investment officers from sovereign wealth funds, public pensions, insurance companies, charitable foundations and more floating around, potentially looking to allocate billions of dollars to so-called "alternative" investment funds.

At least one firm is hosting a formal event. Hedge fund investor SkyBridge Capital is putting on its annual "Wine Forum" tasting this week at the Hotel Europe's Piano Bar, a popular Davos after-hours hangout. The event is both for client purposes and charity; this year proceeds will go to the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, whose namesake sang at Davos on Tuesday.

Speaking on stage can also help brand managers as astute economic thinkers.

Dalio, for example, will participate on a panel Thursday on the looming end to U.S.-style quantitative easing, "Ending the Experiment." Singer will be part of a debate Wednesday on whether markets are "mispricing" geopolitical risks. And Rubenstein will talk Wednesday on the "New Growth Context" in the global economy.

Others speaking include George Soros of Soros Fund Management (now a family office) on Europe; Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge on economic volatility; Kenneth Hersh of NGP Energy Capital Management on fossil fuels; and Colin Teichholtz of Pine River Capital Management on shadow banking.

But the majority of managers in Davos aren't speaking, many opting to keep a lower profile.

Hedge fund managers at WEF include Dan Loeb of Third Point, Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital Management, Frank Brosens of Taconic Capital, Alan Howard of Brevan Howard Investment Products, Andreas Halvorsen of Viking Global Investors, Mitch Julis and Josh Friedman of Canyon Partners, Andrew Law of Caxton Associates, Michael Martino of Mason Capital Management, Eric Mindich of Eton Park Capital Management, and David Harding of Winton Capital Management, according to WEF materials.

Private equity investors include Stephen Pagliuca of Bain Capital, Scott Kapnick of Highbridge Capital Management, Mitch Truwit of Apax Partners and Tom Speechley of Abraaj Group.

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"As private equity investors operating in growth markets, we have long believed that a holistic view of business and society is essential to understand and navigate global challenges," Speechley said in an email on why he attends Davos.

"That view is best informed through partnerships with decision makers, civil society, government, NGOs and the private sector."