Montreal. February 2017.

A cold, dark, and ice-stormy night.

I met Marko Papic for the first time over dinner at a spot he enthusiastically called “the coolest restaurant in town.” Upon entering, I found a dark and empty restaurant save for a bartender, a waiter, a mâitre d', and a lone customer sitting in the back corner. I started strategizing a polite early exit. But the food and drinks were incredible, and we proceeded to have an excellent, wide-ranging conversation. We stayed late and got totally blasted. It was the first of many times I would observe Marko make a correct, out-of-consensus call.

Within minutes of meeting Marko, I knew he was unique. My singular skill is sniffing out quality from crap and gathering the good ones around me – be it finding new money managers to run capital for our institutional clients, bringing together smart investors on a deal, backing founders of new financial technology companies, or convening the most interesting people in the world at an event in some far-flung location. I also seek out those with unique skills and try to persuade them to join the Clocktower Group team.

By the time I met Marko, I'd been looking for a chief strategist for a while. I needed someone to act like a basketball center, a big man in the middle to gel the team. I was looking for a beautiful mind to sit on top of our unique and exclusive information flow, then channel it into a coherent form for our clients. At first, I looked for the typical economist. Over the past 40 years, bond markets, central bankers, and finance ministers drove markets – and the world. It was the Lords of Finance and the Committees to Save the World who pulled the puppet strings, and the alpha lay in correctly forecasting their next move.

Enter 2016.

The passing of the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump marked a sea change in the macro game. Populist movements in developed countries drove home the point that the era of the economist and the interest rate soothsayer was over. In the post-Trump, post-Brexit era, geopolitics are all that counts. With interest rates pegged to the zero lower bound for the foreseeable future, the Lords of Finance and Committees to Save the World have run out of ammo.

As such, Clocktower's chief strategist needed not be an Ivy-trained economist with a perfect résumé coupled with a PhD, CFA, MBA, and other meaningless acronyms. We needed someone not locked on the movements of the Fed & Co., but focused on international and domestic politics. The battles and power players of today (and tomorrow) are Trump versus Xi, the UK versus Europe, Putin versus world, MBS, Macri, Bolsanaro, etc.

Enter Marko Papic: a geopolitical expert who grew up getting chased by packs of wild dogs in collapsing Yugoslavia; who subsequently moved to Iraq, Jordan, Switzerland and Texas; and who married a Tejana and settled in Canada. Whispers of an unorthodox geopolitical thinker with out-of-consensus market views drifted from clients and prospects. A strategist out of Montreal who more often than not, turned out to be right. For many, Marko, the nihilist Serbian, was their favorite strategist. I realized he was just the stateless, unbiased, enthusiastic, unique idea generator that the team in Santa Monica needed to fill out our global macro squad.

After following Marko's calls for a year and test-driving him at a few client events, I spent the better part of 2018 convincing him that the beaches of Southern California are a better place than the slopes of Mont-Tremblant. In December 2018, Marko signed on to join Clocktower Group as our chief strategist. In 2019, he crushed it. In January 2020, I said, “Marko, that was great, but now it is time to take the training wheels off,” and made him write this book. I've written two books about global macro and was halfway through writing my third: the final installment in my trilogy. Contract was signed, chapters were in the can, and an advance was paid. Halfway through, the world changed. It was time to pass the ball to the big man in the middle.

Marko took the pass and ran with it. Like his childhood hero Kobe Bryant (RIP), he approached this book with insane focus. He wrote chapters faster than I could read them. He did this all while producing reports and talking to clients, seeds, founders, and partners on top of a torn ACL/meniscus (which he ignored), working from home and homeschooling his three kids due to COVID-19. Mamba-style.

Marko has a lot to say about this brave new world that revolves around politics and geopolitics. People deserve to hear it – not just Clocktower clients and friends but anyone who wants their eyes opened to the invisible barriers that dictate the future. In Geopolitical Alpha, Marko models how to make well-researched, actionable forecasts using his constraint-based framework. Along the way, he gifts you, the reader, with funny stories, anecdotes, and historical examples coupled with invaluable insights on relevant geopolitical trends: the state of US–China tensions, the future of Europe, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, US elections, and other schisms that will drive world markets. I hope you learn and enjoy. You're welcome.

Steven Drobny
CEO and Founder of Clocktower Group
Author of Inside the House of Money and The Invisible Hands.
March 2020
Currently under “Shelter-in-place” order in Malibu, Claifornia

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