Charlotte Street Partners



Wealth of Nations

Written by Andrew Wilson, founding partner
29 May 2021

I was recently driving through Gogarburn – home to the mesmerically-scaled headquarters of what was once RBS Group at the edge of Edinburgh.

Opened in 2005 by Her Majesty The Queen, many analysts and journalists pointed out that a new shiny – and in this case, colossal – HQ was a sell signal on a company that had outgrown its boots. How we all laughed at such cynicism. Barely three years later, the company was on its knees along with much of the financial sector and the world economy.

The campus remains and has been packed tight as the property portfolio of the once largest bank on earth was rationalised. Part of that tightening has seen exits from the nearby Gyle and Edinburgh Park. Thankfully, one of the true wonders of Edinburgh – the powerful sculpture “Wealth of Nations” by Leith born genius, the late Eduardo Paolozzi – was spared and still stands proudly at Gogarburn’s gates.

Commissioned for the Bank by then Deputy Chairman and our Chairman Sir Angus Grossart, it is so worth a look. Around its base Paolozzi included the quote by Einstein that “knowledge is wonderful but imagination is even better”. Having both? World beating.

At Charlotte Street Partners, we strive to combine knowledge and imagination to improve the organisations we try to help. This is the opposite of escapism, but sometimes, especially at the weekend, or when we need to solve a problem, we must make time to daydream because that can become practical.

1. Post Pandemic Pastoralism 

As society gradually reopens, popular weekend activities for millennials increasingly feature:  wild swimming, cross-country walks and gardening, beekeeping, chicken cooping, cucumber pickling and wild garlic foraging. Shake your borage flowers, ladies and gents, #cottagecore is in, and in this article, Laura Freeman predicts that the post-pandemic fervour for a modern pastoral idyll is the dawn of a new Romantic Age.
Read in The Times

2. We contain multitudes

Singer, songwriter, filmmaker, author, activist and artist; Bob Dylan is hard to capture with a single word. “Multitudinous man”, concludes Keith Blackmore. And as Bob Dylan turns 80 this week, this article invites us to reflect on the life and work of man who proved that we all, indeed, contain multitudes.
Read in Tortoise.

3. What if remote work didn’t mean work from home?

Remote working is hardly a new concept – writers have been doing it forever. But why confine yourself to the kitchen table when Maya Angelou, for example, procured hotel rooms shorn of their artwork to write? Or when Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, famously rented the back of a rented furnace factory? Time to get creative with our post-pandemic places of work.
Read in The New Yorker.


4. Lessons from a pandemic

National stereotypes have proven tricky when trying to understand why some countries fared better than others in the pandemic. Early on, for example, did Indians’ large households improve immunity or had Swedes’ individualism stemmed the spread? Both have been short-lived showing that –  Ruchir Sharma proposes – it is simply too early to make sense of the national rankings. 
Read in the Financial Times.

5.What we get wrong about China

Economic progress, wealth creation and reform are all underway in China. But does that mean the Chinese state is becoming more open and liberal? Not so, say historian Rana Mitter and businesswoman Elsbeth Johnson. And unless businesses and governments grasp this apparent paradox, they will never understand the world’s most populous country.
Read in Harvard Business Review.

6. Scotland welcomes you people of England … and everywhere

I do not like metropolitan mischief that accentuates the fallacy that Scotland is anything other than welcoming of England, Englishness, English people and tourists. It just isn’t true of 99.99% of Scots. In fact, I reckon up to 20% of Scots would qualify (if selected) to play for England in the summer Euros. I am one of them. 
This article is not such mischief as a wake up call to correct misconceptions and turn on a tractor beam of “welcome” from Scotland to the rest of the UK. Just because half the country wants to govern themselves differently does not mean that every other connection of family, society, economy and culture don’t matter so much. 
Read to the end for a story of what a lifeline service Calmac is and a reminder that there is so much good going on.
Read in The Spectator.

7. Scottish architectural vision

I had lunch this week with a recent recruit to our team – Charles Clegg – who joined us from the Scottish Conservatives. I already knew it but our conversation confirmed my sense that – at but 25 years of age – he has one of the most learned minds I have had the pleasure to meet. He told me that Patrick Geddes the Scottish biologist and town designer had drawn the master plan for Tel Aviv in 1925. This I did not know. Anyway, that came to mind when I spotted this great story about Edinburgh architects, The Kettle Collective, were working on plans for a new tower for St Petersburg. I absolutely love that creativity in this form can win a world class contract from my small corner of the planet. Long may that continue.
Read the story in BBC and The 1925 Master Plan for Tel-Aviv by Patrick Geddes on Jstor.

And finally… 

Speaking of creativity, the newly re-opened National Galleries of Scotland are currently celebrating 100 years since the birth of Joan Eardley – one of Scotland’s most influential and celebrated artists of the 20th century. 
If you can’t yet make it to Edinburgh to view, why not look and listen online here to a three-part podcast led by Lachlan Goudie artist and broadcaster and author of a recent book on the Story of Scottish Art.
Listen and view on National Galleries Scotland.