CNBC anchor a seasoned campaigner who’s seen it all before

When the 2007 financial crisis hit global markets and economies, it was déjà vu for the CNBC business anchor Geoff Cutmore.

For him, it had reverberations of the 1997 crisis that hit Asia, where currencies crashed and stock markets tanked, threatening to unsettle the global economy.

“It felt like ‘oh no, here we are again’, although of course the causes were different. This time around it was all about subprime mortgages in the US,” says Cutmore, who anchors CNBC’s flagship Squawk Box programme and was in the UAE last week covering the Global Financial Markets Forum 2015, organised by National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

“2007-08 were remarkable years where you felt very much financial markets were at the centre of everything that the world was watching. What we had since then is governments and central banks reacting and now everybody knows the names of every central banker around the world. [US federal reserve chairwoman] Janet Yellen has become more important than the secretary of state or the president on occasion.”

The tremors for the financial crisis may have abated a little, but they are still being felt in Europe. With a lag time, the collapse of energy prices means the crisis is not over and the implications for oil-exporting countries such as in the Gulf region are just beginning to emerge. This provides Cutmore, who is British, with the seeds of new coverage.

“I’ve been coming and in out of the Middle East for a very long time doing stories here. In the past they were all kinds of good news energy stories about the energy price and what was going on with the investment of the surplus that came from that high oil price,” he says.

“Now the story is moving on a little bit and becoming a little bit more complicated and more nuanced. So it’s quite good for us to come back and be here and talk a bit more about what now happens in this part of the world as a result of the low energy price. Obviously there are geopolitical issues in the region we obviously have to focus on.”

Cutmore has had plenty of experience covering important global stories such as the collapse of energy prices and financial crises. Having worked at CNBC for more than 20 years, he has seen it all from his decade-long stint in Hong Kong to anchoring programmes in Europe.

His three-hour Squawk Box programme, which airs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is a highlight of CNBC’s programmes, where senior executives are interviewed on the show that airs five days a week.

Throughout his career he has had the chance to interview top-level business and political leaders including the former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, billionaire George Soros and the former UK prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major.

But the highlight of his career was an interview with the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In May 2014, Petro Poroshenko was the front runner for the Ukraine presidential elections that were taking place after the removal of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich. Everybody was waiting for Mr Putin to accept the legitimacy of the electoral process.

“In that moment the world was waiting to see if president Putin would say ‘I accept the validity of the electoral process’, because up to that point he had said ‘no this was a group of protesters and renegades that forced a government out that had been democratically elected,’” says Cutmore, who is based in London. “After pushing him several times in the conversation that we had, he eventually said ‘yes, I will accept the legitimacy of these elections’ and at that moment I think a lot of people breathed a sigh of relief.”

But for the broadcaster, covering business is his bread and butter and he has faced challengers along the way, particularly when a financial crisis hits markets and starts affecting the global economy, as it did in 2007-08.

“That was tough because at the time it’s like the old proverb, everybody is touching a part of the elephant, but nobody quite knows what it looks like because you only have your small part and that is quite challenging to put the pieces all together,” says Cutmore, adding that the crisis has taught people that economics do matter and that people should care about the numbers because at the end of the day it will affect their livelihoods.

“I think there is terrible lack of education about the risk of getting into debt or about how interest rates work and how they affect the decisions you make,” says Cutmore. “The people should have better knowledge of what stocks and shares are and about what putting money into one’s savings account as against another is going to mean for the longer-term return of their money.”

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Dania Saadi

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