Our Industry Has Optimistic Future: Ernie Blom

Mr. Ernest (Ernie) Blom, one of the most experienced and envisioned leaders the global diamond industry today, is President of World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), Honorary Life President of WFDB, Chairman of Diamond Dealers Club of South Africa and associated with many other trade bodies.

Here in an exclusive talk with G2J, Mr. Blom touches up on various issues of the global diamond industry. The excerpts:

The WFDB’s mission statement states that it would lead, advise and manage its affairs with the objective of securing a growing, profitable, respected, and sustainable international diamond industry… How far have you been able to uphold this statement and be instrumental in progress of the global diamond industry during your term as its president?

Ernie Blom: I don’t think there is any doubt that the WFDB is the ‘go-to’ voice of the diamond industry today. We are a federation of 30 bourses with around 30,000 members. In addition, approximately 95 percent of all the diamonds traded globally pass through the hands of our members.

Over the past year, we have created a comprehensive business and communications strategies, with industry professionals running them.

The WFDB plays a leading role in the World Diamond Council regarding the Kimberley Process.

It also is at the forefront in holding talks with industry and non-industry players on issues such as money laundering and powerfully communicates views on behalf of the industry.

We consistently maintain the need for industry transparency and self-regulation: there are not just concepts, but issues that the industry today takes very seriously and works towards.

How far has the World Diamond Mark Foundation (WDM) been successful in promoting consumer desirability and confidence in diamonds since its inception in 2012? How its work differs from the Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA)?

Ernie Blom: Bearing in mind the very small budget that it has, the WDM has done an excellent job in creating industry awareness of the need for generic marketing and in working with retailers to ensure consumer confidence in diamond jewellery.

The Presidents Meeting in Dubai decided that the WDM will work hand-in-hand with the DPA to promote diamond sales. This is a job that is too large for a single body to deal with, so I am delighted the DPA has agreed on the need for cooperation.

The Presidents’ Meeting of WFDB was recently concluded in Mumbai. Can you please evaluate its outcome?

Ernie Blom: The Presidents Meeting provides a platform for the discussion of a wide variety of issues, and this year’s event was no different. We had the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing us. In addition, the Finance Seminar, organized by the GJEPC and BDB about the financing challenges facing the global trade and possible solutions, including alternative forms of credit, was extremely valuable. The seminar investigated the reasons for the lack of financing available, and searched for the answers as to why current solutions have not been fully successful.

With the depleting production of existing diamond mines and no new mines coming up in near future, with banks reluctant to finance the industry and many other challenges, do you think the industry has a bleak future? Your comments please…

Ernie Blom: I could not disagree more! I think our industry has an optimistic future. The demand/supply factor will give the diamond business a very strong foundation. We are looking for alternative means of securing credit, as mentioned previously, and I am confident we will succeed in that.

In addition, it must be borne in mind that a great many diamond companies work with their own money. They are cautious in their approach and work within their means. Furthermore, the majority of diamantaires also realize that the need for transparency is paramount in order to secure financing and they are putting in place the measures needed to achieve that.

You have a vast association with the global diamond industry. What is your honest ‘diagnosis of the industry’s present ailment’ and what ‘treatment’ do you suggest for its fast recovery?

Ernie Blom: At the World Diamond Congress in Dubai last year, we promoted the themes of Transparency, Responsibility and Sustainability. These are critical to the success of the global diamond sector.

We must aim to be increasingly professional and to put corporate structures in place in order to succeed.

We must also be on guard continuously for cases of over-grading of diamonds and the mixing of undisclosed synthetic stones with natural diamonds.

We continue to work hard to ensure the Kimberley Process works efficiently and to have a vital input where non-industry bodies, such as law enforcement agencies or the Financial Action Task Force are concerned, so that they understand that the diamond trade is the best self-regulated trade in the world.

Interview by Suresh Chotai