My fDi career has taken me to some five dozen countries to date, on every continent; from the world's largest, most sophisticated cities to backwaters at ground-zero of their development stage; from cities with the most recognisable brand names to those few people have heard of (and with even fewer consonants in their name); from the wealthiest post-codes on the planet to areas of heart-rending poverty; from the liveliest party places (all in the name of research, of course) to the most pious; and from those considered the safest areas to full-on conflict zones. On my business trips, I've worn head scarves and hard-hats and flak jackets and combat boots. 

One thing people tend to ask me about my travels is if I have ever felt afraid. Of course I have, on a few occasions. Only once, though, did I experience the heart-pounding feeling that I was in immediate harm's way and my fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. (I opted for flight, if you're wondering.) It happened in a four-star boutique hotel in Geneva, statistically one of the safest cities anywhere, and in an environment where I had every reason to feel secure. By my bad luck, I came out of the lift to my floor just in time to be spotted by a drunken and aggressive man – who, I later found out, was a Russian actor in town to shoot a film. He chased me down the corridor and nearly barged into my room before I shut the door just in the nick of time. I called hotel security, who appeared to have little interest in dealing with the matter, and eventually the local police, whose disinterest bordered on offensive. Their attitude was that I must have misunderstood his intentions, because after all, there is no real danger in a nice hotel in such a nice city.


To me, this incident illustrates two points about risk – a timely catch-word as the world again looks rife with economic danger. One is that risk is all relative. Maybe most nights Geneva is a safe place; it doesn’t feel that way when you’re on the receiving end of an attempted attack. Maybe most nights Baghdad, where I have been known to hang out, is an unsafe place; it doesn’t feel that way when I am ensconced in a heavily fortified compound. The second point is about preparedness. I ran into trouble in Geneva partly because my guard was down; in Baghdad, where I have never had any trouble, it’s not that every risk is erased – that's impossible – but every conceivable risk is at least accounted for and mitigated against. And it goes without saying that my security providers in Iraq would have a different reaction to any potential assailants than the Geneva squad did. It is worth remembering – as the global economy looks to take some potentially scary turns and investors become more risk-averse – that sometimes the biggest risks are those that are unexpected.

Courtney Fingar is editor of fDi Magazine. E-mail: