The Insight Story

Europe in Russia’s Gas Crosshairs

Europe in Russia’s Gas Crosshairs

Nord Stream 1: A lifeline for European gas till now  On 27 July 2022, the gas flow from the 1,224km underwater Nord Stream 1 (NS-1) pipeline, starting from Russia to Europe, was reduced to just under 20% compared to its full capacity, citing issues with a turbine. Earlier, the NS-1 was shut down for 10 days, from 11 July to 21 July 2022, for regular maintenance work. With the mounting number of sanctions against Russia on account of the Russia-Ukraine war, uncertainty about the future gas supply lingers. Russian supplies contribute about 35–40% of Europe’s natural gas requirement, which is mostly transported through the NS-1 pipeline.  Germany is heavily dependent on Russia for gas supply. In addition, Italy, Austria, and Central and Eastern Europe also consume a huge volume of gas supply from Russia. Due to the constantly rising energy and commodity prices, gas prices have already surged by 70% in Europe since Gazprom, a Russian state-run oil and gas company, slashed supply by 60%. In June 2022, Reuters stated that a complete stop of Russian gas would cost Germany 12.7% of its economic performance in the second half of 2022. This would translate to EUR193bn in total economic losses to Germany. The situation with other European countries is similar. Hence, further supply cuts could trigger a recession across Europe going into the next year.   Figure 1: Nord Stream 1 Recent Supply Movement  Source: Nord Stream AG  Turbine story: A Blame Game to Keeping Europe Gas Starve  In June 2022, citing the delayed return of a turbine, Gazprom reduced gas supply by 60% compared to its full capacity. The gas flow was not only stopped for Germany, but huge volumes were also curtailed for other routes linking Russia to Slovakia, the Czech Republic to Austria via Ukraine, and Belarus to Poland. The NS-1 pipeline transports 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The turbine required for the functioning of NS-1 was being serviced in Canada by Siemens. After the regulatory and sanctions-related tussle between Europe, Russia, and Canada, on 10 July 2022, the Canadian government allowed the transport of turbines through a time-limited and revocable permit for Siemens. Under this, one turbine was transported from Canada, and the other five turbines will be repaired at Siemens, Canada, over the next two years. After overcoming the regulatory hurdles, the turbine was finally delivered to Gazprom. However, as per Gazprom, the turbine repair work was not in line, which ultimately forced the gas supply to just 20% in late July 2022 as compared to the May 2022 levels. With the worsening current geopolitical tensions and the mounting number of sanctions, there is a lot of a grey area around the resumption of gas flow at full capacity to Europe, which was further exacerbated by the recent supply cuts.  Gas Inventory Levels: Europe’s Winter Goals too Ambitious at One-fifth of Gas Flow Capacity  Europe is planning to stock up to 80% of gas storage by 01 November 2022 to create a sufficient buffer against the winter. Germany is aiming for a higher goal of stocking 95% gas supply by the same date. Even if the 80% target is reached, it still would not be enough to get countries through winter without continuous supplies of more gas. The storage capacity and storage levels differ vastly among European countries. Whilst countries are lining up to fill their storage capacities, even at full capacity, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, and Croatia would run out of gas by December this year.  If Russia continues to supply gas at 20% capacity, the stated goals would not be achieved, thereby adversely impacting the European economy. The Dutch wholesale gas price for August, the European benchmark, was up by 7% at EUR210 per megawatt hour in July 2022, which is up by around 400% from the same time last year. The soaring energy prices are already putting pressure on inflation, thereby squeezing the spending power of people and further pushing the regional population towards poverty, which has been a concern since the COVID-19 pandemic.  Germany: Putting its Neck on the Line as Winter Looms  Nearly half of the German households rely on gas heating during the winter season, which is from October to March. If the gas flow is not restored at its full capacity, it will create a catastrophic problem for Germany to fill its gas storage by 80% through October and 95% by November. As per the data from Gas Infrastructure Europe for July 2022, the German current gas storage levels are only two-thirds full. Although the storage capacity of Europe is massive, the demand is equally huge. At the current capacity, the German tanks can hold only 108 days of consumption.  Gas storage activities have ramped up, especially in the second half. However, with just one-fifth of the Russian gas flow through NS-1, Germany remains behind in its goals of storing 95% gas for winter. Hence, the government has embarked on an emergency gas plan. Household and essential services remain the top priority under the plan. E.g. the city of Hanover, Germany, decided to turn off warm water in the showers of its pools and gyms along with municipalities from the last week of July 2022.  Figure 2: Gas sales by customer group for 2021 (data in billions of kilowatt hours)  Source: Reuters, Zukunft Gas  On the industry front, chemicals, metals, and foods remain highly exposed to gas shortages. As per Moody’s, BASF alone consumes about 4% of Germany’s gas. The aluminium industry, where energy costs form about 40% of production costs, relies heavily on gas for smelting. Currently, Germany employs over 60,000 employees and generates EUR22bn from the aluminium industry. Reducing gas supply by only 30% could lead to 50% of the idling capacity for this industry. The paper industry, which generates about EUR15–16bn of revenue with 40,000 employees, again relies on gas. Likewise, steel, glass, and other commodity-led industries are on the verge of decline, which will produce a ripple effect on the economy, leading to a recession. Overall, the gas halt may impact more than 5 million employees directly or indirectly.  Figure 3: Gas consumption by industry (2021)  Source: Zukunft Gas, The Economist  European Alternative Measures to Circumvent the Gas Crisis: Ongoing Efforts do not Seem Enough  Whilst some EU states, such as Poland and Lithuania, have stopped gas imports from Russia, Germany has increased it. As per Reuters’ report dated July 2022, Germany received 32% of its total natural gas supplies from Russia in 2011, which increased to 52% in 2021, despite formal sanctions on Russia. Germany being the largest Russian gas consumer in Europe could import gas from Norway (the second biggest exporter to Europe after Russia), the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands through the pipeline in the absence of Russian gas flows. Germany is already negotiating with the world’s top LNG suppliers, including TotalEnergies and Shell Plc, for alternatives. Europe is already tapping the US and Canadian markets for gas supplies via ships, but this route is way more expensive compared to the Russian supply route. Interestingly, a high single-digit percentage decrease in gas demand was seen in May due to the ramp-up of renewables, increased coal power generation, and lower demand owing to lower GDP growth. Germany is also considering extending the life of the Bavarian Nuclear Plant and reversing a decision to shut the Isar 2 facility in Munich.  Other Options: There are, but not as Cheap as NS-1  Norwegian and US gas: Whilst supplying gas to Europe, Norway stands second after Russia. Norway is already pushing gas production since the war to help Europe for ending its reliance on Russian imports. The US also started to supply 15bcm of gas to Europe this year, but the number is lower compared to the 2021 consolidated consumption level of 155bcm. Additionally, the gas transport from the US via ships will add to extra cost.  Moving to coal: Utilities and a few other industries that can switch to coal or oil are already in talks to secure supplies. But by this route, Germany’s ambitions of energy transition towards emission-free fuel by 2030 will be delayed. However, the same option is not available to everyone. One of the leading steel companies, ThyssenKrupp stated that an alternative option barring gas is not possible, and the plants may have to be shut down.  Emergency plans: If Germany is forced to implement an emergency plan, household consumption will be prioritized along with hospital and essential services. However, this will result in halting the operations of the biggest companies in the country, leading to a series of downgrades. The government is already planning for more drastic measures, including gas rationing for energy-intensive industries, such as steel and agriculture. These measures are listed under ‘Save Gas for a Safe Winter’ and are part of a European-wide gas demand reduction plan, which is aimed to reduce gas use by 15% until next spring.  Impact on European companies: Downgrade risks on the horizon  Uncertain and costlier gas supplies are deteriorating the credit quality of European utilities. Recently, Uniper SE was downgraded by S&P to BBB- from BBB with a negative outlook, owing to the Russian gas import cut. Gazprom accounts for 50% of gas imports for Uniper SE, which was already reduced to 40% earlier this year. In July 2022, Uniper SE already reached out to the government and received EUR15bn in a bailout package. Below are the few rating actions that were taken by S&P and Moody’s on European utilities.  Table 1: Credit rating actions by the Rating agencies  Source: Moody’s and S&P Global ratings  With the soaring gas prices, S&P took several rating actions on European chemical companies on 1st August 2022.  Table 2: Credit rating actions by S&P Global Ratings  Source: S&P Global Ratings  If the current conditions persist, European utilities could take a material hit as earnings and liquidity would deteriorate amidst higher energy prices. This, in turn, could lead to additional rating downgrades, and most importantly, fallen angel risk could increase. Although government support is likely to provide comfort, credit negative actions are imminent. Even the best-intentioned emergency plans to deal with a potential stoppage of Russian gas supplies—primarily rationing but also passing on ascending costs to the end consumers—may fail to avoid having social consequences. Hence, the German government needs to manage these risks quickly and proactively.  Impact on the Russian economy: Economic losses quietly compensated through China  Gazprom contributed about 3.2–4.6% to the Russian GDP from 2017 to 2020. NS-1 contributes about one-fourth of the total gas supplies to Europe. Although the repercussions are material to Russian GDP as well, Kremlin seems to absorb or ignore this blow on the back of the ongoing geopolitical tensions and seemingly aims to bring Europe to the table for discussion ahead of the winter season.  Russian Central Bank’s Governor Elvira Nabiullina said that Russia would supply crude to countries that are willing to cooperate rather than to those that impose a price cap on Russian oil. Interestingly, Russian gas supplies to China were up by 61% via its Power of Siberia pipeline. It seems that Russia is compensating for the loss resulting from the reduction of gas supplies to Europe by diverting its oil to Asian economies. The European Union also allowed Russian state-owned companies, Gazprom and Rosneft, to ship oil to third countries. While the arrangement is not likely to reverse the economic losses the government is incurring by not supplying gas to Europe, it certainly gives more power to Russia when it comes to negotiation with Europe.      With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.    A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance.    

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FIFA World Cup 2022

FIFA World Cup 2022 in Review: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

For years, the FIFA World Cup has been the most viewed sports tournament. Amassing millions of dollars every time it is hosted, it has become something of a hot commodity, with everyone bidding to be a part of it. The bid and decision process to choose the host nation of the tournament is long, and in December of 2010, Qatar was awarded the privilege of hosting the 2022 iteration of the tournament. At the time, this decision was quite controversial, with many suggesting the possibility of bribery between FIFA officials to consider the bid successful, although that was simply conjectured. This was for a variety of different reasons, such as extreme weather conditions to play the sport in and a lack of football-related infrastructure, among others. Yet, FIFA chose to circumvent these fundamental issues by making the unprecedented date change to make it a winter tournament rather than simply finding a more realistic host nation. Furthermore, Qatar committed to building several new stadiums as well as hotels and other training facilities, which meant they were essentially developing entire new cities to facilitate this tournament.   Despite more than a few eyebrows being raised around the world and a few even going as far as boycotting the tournament, there were no changes made to who would host the tournament, and it was decided that it would go through. Aside from the location of the tournament, football fans have hailed this as an extremely important one as it is likely the last one that the greats like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will compete in. It will also revolutionize the game in that fans will see the introduction of a few new rules to the sport.   Read More: Five Personal Finance Startups that are Revolutionizing Fintech  Opportunities Galore  With a tournament of this magnitude and importance, it is obvious to be expensive regardless of where it is conducted. However, with Qatar boasting one of the highest GDP per capita, it was far from surprising when the government and wealthy citizens started funding development for this tournament. With Qatar not having a particularly large football fanbase, it meant that multiple new stadiums had to be built. Not only do the renders of these new stadiums look spectacular and unlike anything fans will have seen before, but they are also cutting edge in terms of the cooling systems that will be used to avoid overheating fans and players during the warm weather.   With so many new stadiums, Qatar also had to suggest what they could do with these facilities when the tournament had finished. The official report is that six of the stadiums will see their seats removed and many of the materials repurposed and sent to lesser economically developed countries. More ambitiously, one of the stadiums is also intended to be entirely disassembled following the completion of the tournament. This means the tournament is also actively benefiting the nations around Qatar. However, many cynics have also claimed this is simply a way to make their stadium projects look a little eco-friendlier and a form of greenwashing to avoid further backlash from the public.   Aside from just stadiums, Qatari authorities have estimated that they will require about 130,000 hotel rooms or rental spaces (at peak capacity) to be able to host all the fans that will be looking for accommodation. However, in a country of a meager three million people, this was not something they had on hand, which meant there was a huge boom in the real estate business. Furthermore, hospitality at hotels as well as around stadiums is being developed to offer a more luxurious experience to those who can afford it. As a result, there has been an estimated 1.5 million new jobs created in key sectors to help boost the already burgeoning economy.   Read More: Four Ways Traditional Finance is being Disrupted by Open Finance  Qatar’s Possible Incompatibility with Football Culture  Football fans are known around the world for their passionate support for their club and country. A big part of that passion and celebration is alcohol. While many spectators will attend the world cup alcohol-free, a large part of the fan base is likely to seek out alcohol as a part of the extravaganza. However, contrary to what has been the case in all other world cups, Qatar will not allow the consumption of alcohol anywhere but the designated fan zones.   Furthermore, if one wants to find or consume alcohol within the stadium, it is only available as a part of the hospitality package, which costs thousands of dollars per head. As the nation of Qatar runs on a legal system based on Sharia law, the alcohol regulations were not something they were willing to compromise on.    Another part of football and sports, in general, is that anyone is allowed to support it, regardless of whether they identify as heterosexual or are in the LGBTQ+ community. However, Sharia law is strictly against such things, and Qatar has reaffirmed that this will not change over the course of the tournament. This reaction was expected from Qatar, and many have criticized FIFA for not foreseeing this. Not only has this been seen as an affront to football fans, but to the inclusivity that FIFA wholeheartedly claims it is striving towards.  Read More: Top Media & Entertainment Trends to Watch Out for in 2022  Worker Conditions and Deaths  The Guardian claimed that there had been approximately 6500 deaths of migrant workers since the announcement of Qatar taking on the World Cup in 2010, with this number being somewhat of a lowball estimate. While most of these deaths have been put down to natural causes or other health complications, many reports have shown that they happened because of worker exhaustion, severe dehydration, and poor working conditions.   When the deaths came to light a few years ago, many were confused as to why the workers did not simply return to their home countries or seek employment elsewhere. However, it was later revealed that workers signed contracts that were under Qatar’s ‘Kafala’ system, which meant they were unable to leave their job or expatriate without the employer’s permission. Moreover, workers reported delayed wage payments and, in some cases, not receiving their wages at all.   The government, too, has been unhelpful in creating a conducive environment for the workers. The procedure for reporting any violations of rights or wrongdoing on the employers’ part is near impossible for the workers and their limited facilities. To add, Qatar prohibits the workers from forming unions to ensure better working conditions and pay for all. With passport confiscation being a common practice, employers were legally able to trap employees without repercussion.   A Final Review  As the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 comes closer and fans become more excited, it is important to remain heedful of the violations that have taken place to facilitate this. As FIFA scrambled to navigate the difficulties of their decision to host the world cup in Qatar, the local authorities vowed to find any way possible to ensure their project succeeds, regardless of the consequences. Over time, it has become increasingly clear that a World Cup should never have taken place in a country like Qatar.  Despite all the failures on the organizers’ part leading up to the tournament, the final success of the tournament itself remains to be seen.   With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.    A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance.    

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Economic Whiplash

Economic Whiplash: What is it and Four Ways to Avoid it

The economic world has been far from stable in the past few years, and it has been volatile galore ever since COVID set in. With the massive demand and supply shocks that occurred as a result of the pandemic and the more recent inflation issues that have plagued the world economy, it has been a quick change for many. Many businesses have faced arduous circumstances because of the mercurial nature of the business cycle of late. This has come to be known as Economic Whiplash. The effects that a company will experience amidst rapid economic changes have become increasingly severe. Therefore, steps to counteract and alleviate the effects thereof are integral.    Many believe that smaller businesses are more prone to feel the impacts of economic whiplash more severely. However, the only firms that will be devoid of any impact are those that are entirely automated. In general, regardless of whether one’s firm is large and completely unconnected to the economic difficulties, higher inflation will mean that employees will require higher salaries meaning that layoffs might become important. Therefore, it is important to avoid corporate arrogance as a large company and still safeguard against it.    The following are four transformational ways to counteract economic whiplash:  Automation of Mundane Tasks  Looking for Long-Term Growth Opportunities  Educating Customers on Value for an Expanded Base  Looking at Subscription-based Solutions for Longer Income  Read More: Anticipating the Unanticipated: Balancing Business Resilience in the new age of Innovation  Automation of Mundane Tasks  As mentioned earlier, automation is normally more immune to economic whiplash than anything else. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that employees are likely to have a much more variable output level than that of a machine. For example, during the pandemic, many employees were made to work from home due to the lockdowns that were put in effect worldwide. This meant that many employees (depending on the job and industry) saw substantial declines in their productivity and output.   It is significant to note that this is often much easier said than done. For most of the work that is done by employees at bigger firms, it requires a higher skill set that cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence. For people like financial day traders, although algorithms and data guide a lot of their work, our technology is simply not at the level that it can act as a viable substitute. Bearing that in mind, it is also true that most companies carry a lot of employees that are unspecialized and work mainly in unskilled labor jobs. This is the case in more rudimentary factories that employ people in many parts of the assembly line rather than machines. Automation, albeit sometimes very expensive, is an investment for the future. Especially in the case of economic fluctuations, automation can greatly aid in offsetting the impacts.  Furthermore, outside of such exigent circumstances, companies are likely to increase profit margins over time. This is because automation in terms of monthly costs is conventionally lower than employee wages. This means production costs are also lowered, only further benefiting the firms.  Looking for Long-Term Growth Opportunities  In times of economic uncertainty, business owners and CEOs are often quick to limit expenditure and lower wages. In the same vein, employees are laid off, and production is often slowed to meet the limited revenue. However, rather than simply saving this money to get the company through the proverbial rainy day, it might be similarly appropriate to look at expanding. This might sound absurd to many, but it is likely that one is able to develop new verticals in their business due to the lower effort required with other aspects of the firm.   It is obviously still not wise to allocate high amounts of capital to a new venture (especially because demand is adequately reduced in the market too). However, if there are certain parts of newer expansions that can be done with relatively limited capital expenditure, it would be a smart investment. This is because having a new product or service prepared and ready to release when the demand boom when the economy reaches its point of inflection means it will have the best chance of succeeding.  Moreover, times of economic stress and downturn are also often the start of new problems that can be solved in new and innovative ways. Because of their recency, there are few solutions to many of these problems. A good example of this is sanitizer and mask manufacturers during the pandemic. If one was able to anticipate their demand beforehand, pre-empting production would be quite clever. When the shortage of those goods did inevitably occur, it was those that had large stocks piled that had the de facto monopoly for a short time. This gave them price rights meaning that they could determine profits easily.   Naturally, foreseeing demand for products is a very difficult skill to cultivate and is far more challenging than it might seem. However, it is these skills that make or break wealth creation in times of difficulty.  Read More: What Is Data Democratization? How is it Accelerating Digital Businesses?  Educating Customers on Value for an Expanded Base  As the demand in all markets drops dramatically in these times of turmoil, it might be futile to remain focused on sales. At the end of the day, revenue and profits are what fuel a business. However, when it becomes near impossible to maintain that, it is smart to start looking elsewhere to boost the business. One of the most important things that one could work on is their customer base. Although the pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, it was a very opportune time for marketing and educating the customer about one’s business and the products/services that one offered.   With such a large part of the global population working from home, internet advertisements have become extremely valuable. Expenditure on the same would probably reflect a larger return on the investment simply because these advertisements would reach more people. As explained earlier, when the effects of economic turmoil begin to alleviate and the markets start to recover, having a loyal consumer base that has been cultivated over the course of this time of difficulty is sure to help offset the losses incurred.    Generally, expanding a customer base is something that should be worked against perpetually. High demand for a product or service that one offers is rarely a negative thing. However, if this has been done effectively beforehand, a loyal customer base means that the demand shocks will be slightly offset during the crisis.   Looking at Subscription-Based Solutions for Longer Income  With most households trying to wean off large purchases, it is often true that consumers feel more comfortable with a few smaller payments. Although this is more of a psychological flaw, it is also true that such payments can be discontinued at any time to cut the losses, which is not an option with larger purchases. Therefore, a transition to subscription-based solutions might be the way to progress.   For most private consumers, subscription has become normal. Whether it is an online subscription like Netflix or Amazon prime for streaming, Apple Music or Spotify for Music, or it is real-life subscriptions for things such as newspapers, they can all provide massive revenue streams for established businesses. When a service has been in the market for an extended period, consumers feel comfortable opting for a subscription. This also means that the value proposition is worth the amount people are paying for the service. As a result, subscribers will often retain services for longer than they planned as it eventually becomes more habitual, and it becomes more difficult to let go of them.   Read More: Four Ways Traditional Finance is being Disrupted by Open Finance  A Word of Caution  The tips mentioned above are all quite effective. However, it is very important to remember that none of these can act as a proverbial silver bullet for these times of difficulty. When it comes to being that, and the global economies finally go under official recessions, these tips will only be of help to aid in recovering and reallocating funds that might not be getting used. At the same time, this is not to say that these times will become any less challenging. Regardless of what a business can do, there will be some problems that cannot be bypassed because they are governed by parties that are out of any individual’s control. For example, during the pandemic, the world faced large supply chain bottlenecks. As mentioned in the first point, even if one were to automate manufacturing processes and significantly improve the efficiency of production, it would mean nothing if logistics companies were unable to bring these products from the factory to the consumers.   Although there are many things that might help a business, this is a time where grit and perseverance are of the highest value, and those that can maintain that throughout are the ones that prevail.   With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.       A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance.    

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Navigating the Great Resignation

Navigating the Great Resignation: Types of Talent that are Driving it

In the past, spikes in voluntary attrition have often signaled the rising competition for talent, where in-demand workers left their job for a similar but better one. However, the recent wave of attrition is significantly different. Most of the employees are leaving their existing jobs to take on very different roles or to just leave the workforce entirely.  Quitting: The Trend in Vogue  The U.S. unemployment saw a record low, but with 11.3 million open jobs. However, it is easy to understand this optimism. This high demand is driving more than half of those who quit to not only move into a new job but also into a new industry. However, only 6% of employees are making a lateral move within their industry. The public and social sectors always have had the greatest attrition rate, with 57% leaving the sector. The healthcare and pharma sectors are considered to have had the least.  Workers are leaving their workplaces faster than they can be replaced. As per the report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 4.3 million people voluntarily resigned from their jobs in December 2021. The reported number was slightly below the record high in November 2021. However, in October 2021, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs, a trend mirrored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).   Read more: Anticipating the Unanticipated: Balancing Business Resilience in the new age of Innovation  What significantly matters is that many are not willing to return to their former industries or the job world anytime soon. Of those who are quitting without a new job in hand, only 47% are showing interest in returning to the workforce, and 29% are returning to traditional full-time employment. However, some companies are still waiting for these people to come back, and they are willing to wait as well.  But where did they go?  Many claimed this to be the beginning of the 'Great Resignation' - an exodus of disenfranchised workers who were fed up with their corporate life. However, the reported facts have a different story to tell- employee engagement is at an all-time high, whereas unemployment is at an all-time low.  The Great Resignation: Facts in Context  The rate of employees quitting hit a record in late 2021 and has remained high ever since. The quits data is skewed by the rate of employees quitting in the Accommodation and Food Service sectors. These industries have experienced twice the average quits in comparison to other professions.  Workers are leaving for new jobs and not the workforce. They are only resigning with a new opportunity in hand.   The ratio of employment seekers to open jobs has never been this low since the 1960s. There are roughly two vacant jobs for every job seeker. Usually, there are several job seekers for every vacancy.  Workers are not resigning. Engagement is nearing an all-time high. The average engagement data shows significant variations in employee experience. However, what matters more is the workforce engagement along with the effects of policies on different cohorts.  Read more: A New Approach to Accelerate Innovation in Market Research  Factors Driving the Great Resignation  With the pandemic forcing virtual working for all, many workers decided they preferred the new normal setup. Many surveys have reported that workers were pumped by this new flexibility. There was a wider realization that office environments and work culture were designed with an idealized worker in mind and not around diversity for workers' needs. However, this one size fits all design could only serve a very few.  And knowledge workers are increasingly able to work from anywhere in the country. This flexibility empowers them to pursue their dream jobs to offer a purpose and not the paycheck. This hyper-mobility of the new working model is helping employers to broaden their talent horizons, as companies are now more open to recruiting new talent to the workplace.  Workers have increased their agency and autonomy as they are waking up to new possibilities. This leads to opening new doors to new questions leading to a great re-evaluation of priorities.  What kind of business are the employees willing to work for?   What, beyond money, are they exploring the most?  However, this is being perceived as good news for many organizations that can:  Maintain as well as draw from a much wider talent pool  Reduce the cost of facilities  Retain existing talent for the right reasons, including powerful and compelling purpose, culture, or ethos  Place employee experience at the center of the brand table  Laggards in managing talent and culture is a major struggle for many organizations. However, the new hypermobility is shining a bright light on companies whose employee experience is subpar. Firms that insist on pre-pandemic policies are likely to face a talent exodus and miss opportunities to recruit from a wider talent pool.  For businesses that are prioritizing employee experience, the Great Resignation will likely prove to be a great opportunity for them. Read more: Data-Centricity: The New Roadmap to Driving Enterprises in a Changing World  The Five Employees Personas that are Driving the Great Resignation  With mass resignations taking place, employers are exploring and recognizing which types of employees are open to new jobs—and what it will take to hire as well as retain them. As per a recent study, McKinsey identified five employee personas that may be driving the 'Great Resignation.' They are-  Traditionalists — Traditionalists are career-oriented workers who are willing to make trade-offs if given the right outlay. They are less likely to quit without another job offer in hand and more likely to stay if they feel valued as well as get enough money.  The do-it-yourselfers — Appear as the largest cohort in the study. They are a group of workers that tends to put more value on flexibility, meaningful work, and compensation. They can typically be self-employed or do gig work/ part-time jobs. They look mostly for flexibility and friendly work culture.  The caregivers — These are the ones who feel at home but also want more. Typically, between the 18 to 44 years of age group, with the possibility of more women, the caregiver personas decided to sit it out at home and are now looking to explore roles with flexibility that also allow them to continue their caregiving and responsibilities exceeding their jobs.  The idealists — Usually, a younger cohort of students and younger part-timers, between 18 to 24, are more inclined towards flexibility, strong organizational culture, and clear career advancement trajectories. They belong to an inclusive and welcoming community.  The relaxers — These individuals are a mix of retirees who are not looking for work, while some might show a willingness to return to traditional work if the job is the right fit for them. They crave meaningful work and balance. Organizations are experiencing a rise in the number of retired workers returning to work following a sudden surge in retirement due to the onset of the pandemic.  Read more: Blockchain Gamification and the Emergence of Innovative Business Models  To Sum Up  The sudden departures have left a huge hole in the labor market. The Great Resignation is putting the limelight on leaders who lack in creating flexible and meaningful work environments. Rather a holistic and mindful approach will allow businesses to attract and retain talented workers who can deeply connect with the company vision.  Attributing the record-high quit rate to pay issues bypasses the bigger picture of the workplace. The pandemic has completely altered the way people work and how they perceive work. While many are reflecting on what a quality job feels like, others are taking it a step ahead and willing to quit to find one that fits their expectations.  Companies are now exploring opportunities to maximize their pay strategies by calibrating an effective rewards program along with an understanding of how all the program's components are expected to affect various employee perceptions, behaviors, and outcomes. To address this attrition-attraction issue, companies are doubling down on their value propositions for both traditional, which incorporates pay, title, benefits, and career paths, and nontraditional, which concerns flexibility, company culture as well as personalization.  Reversing this tide in an organization will require leaders who care, engage, and provide employees with a sense of purpose, inspiration, and motivation.  Reversing the Great Resignation first requires fixing the Great Discontent; only then will other components fall in place.  With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.                   A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance.    

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Emerging Blockchain-Based Tokenization

The Emerging Blockchain-Based Tokenization: What Investors Need to Know About it?

Blockchain tokenization of real-world assets is continuing to gain momentum as new investments are being made across the industry. And many investors are now directing their focus on blockchain as they are constantly hearing about the 'tokenization' of assets. However, only one understands what it means or how it is distinct from other crypto investments.   Given the bleak prospects of the financial markets, a wave of blockchain technological innovations is emerging, bringing in potential benefits as well as new challenges. Tokenized securities - a new kind of blockchain-based asset - are fostering price stability, programmability, as well as transaction efficiency.  While many industries and markets are in their early phases of the adoption of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT), they are continuing to seek viable use cases. One such broad category is the creation of digitally tokenized assets, where the token either represents an interest that exists only in the Blockchain or an asset existing off the blockchain. Tokenization assists investors in improving the ability to manage asset-liability risk via accelerated transactions and improved transparency.  Read more: The Metaverse: How is it Revolutionizing the Way We Shop?  A Quick Glance at Blockchain Technology  There is plenty of technical jargon that is thrown around in this world of blockchain that can often confuse people. However, blockchain technology is simple. It is a set of ledgers of transactions that correspond against multiple nodes to ensure transactional accuracy as well as transparency. These ledgers are then recorded publicly on the blockchain for anyone to look them up. They are exactly like credit card statements, where every transaction is recorded on the public ledger database.  However, there are more elements that are required to fully grasp blockchain technology.   To begin with, typical blockchains have 'wallets' with a unique ID that corresponds to an account in traditional finance terms, which helps in making transactions happen on the chain with the public as well as a secret key. If the user has access to both keys, they can record a transaction to the blockchain.  The second vital aspect is that blockchains consist of a primary currency, which is a symbol like XLM, ETH, or XRP, and they contain tokens. Tokens are like currency, except they are usually issued onto the chain by third parties. The tokens usually represent other things like 'stable' coins or tokenized assets. A token is simply a quantity unit with a name. The quantity can be bought or traded by the user on the chain. The ledger helps in keeping track of who holds what quantity in which account.  And lastly, there is still some confusion about the different blockchains and the chain that holds tokens.  Defining Tokenization  Not a relatively new component of the blockchain world, the tokenization of real-world assets is garnering the attention of almost all industries. Fundamentally, tokenization is deemed as a process of converting rights or a unit of asset ownership to digital tokens on a blockchain. Tokenization can be incorporated into regulated financial mechanisms like equities and bonds and tangible assets, as well as tokenize copyright to works of authorship in music or other intellectual property.   Tokenization is the process of designing, programming, protecting, launching, marketing, and storing a series of blockchain tokens. This procedure helps in replacing sensitive data with tokens. However, it is not a one-off event prior to the token process but a continuous one. The benefits of tokenization are apparent for assets that are not traded electronically, like works of art or exotic cars, along with those elements that require increased transparency in payment and data flows to enhance their liquidity and tradability.  Read more: Blockchain Gamification and the Emergence of Innovative Business Models  Benefits of Tokenization  The tokenization of financial assets offers a range of benefits to market participants or investors. They include-  A comprehensive investor base  Broader geographic reach:  Reduced settlement times  Infrastructure advancement  Decreased cost for reconciliation in trading  Regulatory evolution of regulatory frameworks   Enhanced asset-liability management  Increase in available collateral  The Disparity Between Centralized and Decentralized Exchanges  There are two kinds of token exchanges - centralized and decentralized. Centralized exchanges have a high risk of compliance issues with securities and broker registrations, as there is one private centralized organization that controls the trade executions. At the same time, decentralized exchanges authorize token holders to trade peer-to-peer with each other. These transactions are executed by a group of nodes across different jurisdictions. This helps in removing the possibility of portal operators executing any trades while allowing token holders to maintain their own secondary market.  Why is Tokenization Important?  Today Digital is considered one of the most convenient and favored platforms for availing services as well as making purchases. With the increased frequency of making online transactions, many end up saving their payment details on merchant sites, which indicates that the payment partners have access to the sensitive financial information that should be highly personal. In order to secure the data and protect the customers along with merchants and banks, blockchain tokenization is enabling organizations and prohibiting merchants from storing debit and credit card details on their servers. A safer and more convenient alternative, the adoption of tokenization aids in replacing one’s sensitive card details with a non-sensitive and uniquely generated code referred to as a token.  Regulation and compliance for tokenization often follow already established securities laws in the U.S. Across most of Europe and Latin America; there are still no specific laws for tokenization. Despite this, there is one primary set of international laws that most token platforms adhere to, which is anti-money laundering laws.   Read more: NFT Digital Art: The Technology that is Transforming Creativity  With blockchain-based tokenization maturing and growing in use, investors are exploring its potential to manage the digital business and other assets beyond cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Technology leaders are now aiming to utilize tokenization as an added feature to their existing products and services along with developing new ones. And as tokenization is growing rapidly across the industry, businesses are aiming to break it down to a level all investors can comprehend.  As investors are equally focused on designing the technology and the legal aspects from the ground up for a company, organizations are adopting means to help investors gain an in-depth understanding of the blockchain technology, its compliance, problems, and the benefits of tokenization.  Key Takeaways  The rising popularity of blockchain tokenization, including NFTs and cryptocurrencies, represents only an early subset of the potential application of tokenization in other industries.  Beyond the proficiency to create and represent assets, tokenization also offers features in programmability, fungibility, fractionalization, and composability. These additional abilities are assisting in opening up new commercial possibilities for investment in the digital economy.  The large-scale adoption of tokenization blockchain will depend only if tokenization overcomes its challenges like lack of proven ROI, incompatibility with existing business models, lack of regulatory transparency, and immaturity of the technology components.  Will Tokenization create Significant Opportunities for Investors?   Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, utility tokens, and others are not subsidized by any contractual obligation to the token holder. They are simply considered as a ledger that shows an associated value. This indicates that the token holder owns a perception of that value.   This value depends on how many buyers or sellers are interested in the token in the market, along with additional factors like token issuance and burning by the issuer. This leads to creating a highly unstable investment product.  Read more: The Evident Crypto Crash: Will it Derail the Next Web 3.0 Revolution?  How is the industry tackling this crisis? Enters tokenization.   Blockchain tokens act as legal contracts for investors. This has led to leveraging tokens with a stabilized value that helps in creating a lower risk profile. Tokenization of financial assets helps in generating multiple income streams, like dividends or interest payments to the holders/investor. As tokenization is technologically driven and can be controlled by investors, it is possible to invent new financial instruments that were never created before.   Today blockchain technology is exciting as it offers alternative investment visions that help break the status quo and offer investors superior investment products to which they never had access before. It also simultaneously helps in reducing issuance costs along with ongoing exorbitant exchange fees.  Even with the world still, early in its earlier phase of the tokenization of assets, it certainly has been exhibiting the potential to dramatically change the dynamic investment ecosystem for investors and owners of multiple asset classes. Tokenization is truly being perceived as the future of investment.  With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.                  A leader in the Technology domain, SG Analytics partners with global technology enterprises across market research and scalable analytics. Contact us today if you are in search of combining market research, analytics, and technology capabilities to design compelling business outcomes driven by technology.      

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Five Personal Finance Startups Revolutionizing Fintech

Five Personal Finance Startups that are Revolutionizing Fintech

In the past, management of personal finances was always an arduous task. Most of the people’s earnings were in physical cash for a long time, which meant that the breadwinner of the family would have to calculate earnings and expenses to understand the budget for different things. It was a long and redundant process. However, with the advent of the age of technology and the majority of banking turning digital, calculating such personal finances has become much easier and more efficient.   At any moment in time, it is clear to see how much is in one’s bank account and decide their expenses accordingly. Despite that being quite helpful in budgeting, personal finance has made leaps over the last few years. This is because of the start of Open Finance, which ensures data transparency between banks and third parties that are trying to further improve the personal finance experience. As a result, there are companies that have made solutions that help us navigate this slalom that is the financial world to ensure people stay well-budgeted, on top of payments and loans, save where they can, and invest for the future.   The following are Five Personal Finance start-ups that will help you take charge of your own finances:  SPARQ  KeeperTax  Vivid Money  Credello  CowryWise  SPARQ  Based in Estonia and operated all over the European Union, SPARQ is a versatile personal finance tool for those who choose to use it. It connects straight to your bank account(s) and supports users in all their personal needs. From instant pan-EU transfers at no fees to goal setting when you are saving up for a special purchase (such as a holiday or a new phone), SPARQ helps you with all of this.    The app aims to combat the issue of low financial literacy and household over-indebtedness. It cites issues that 14% of people in the EU were unable to make scheduled payments such as those related to rent, mortgages, consumer credit, or loans from family/friends. It also ventures citizens that are more aware of their finances and have easy access to such information might be able to spend more responsibly. SPARQ was developed with that in mind to reduce indebtedness and help you regulate and smooth consumption while also helping with payments, loans, and other personal financial instruments.  Read More: Anticipating the Unanticipated: Balancing Business Resilience in the new age of Innovation  KeeperTax  Taxes can be difficult to navigate all around the world. The complex forms and the convoluted write-off categories are hard to maneuver. KeeperTax is a personal finance-based fintech company from the US. The value proposition that KeeperTax offers is that it will alert you to available tax write-offs that you might have missed. While partly free, the paid subscription gives you access to extra features as well as a tax professional who can guide you based on any questions that you might have.  Essentially, it is a service built on artificial intelligence that analyzes your expenses by connecting to your accounts. Aside from simply helping you with your write-offs, users can use this as an automatic tax filer as it has been approved by the IRS as an “e-filer” in all 50 states of the US. Filing taxes, the same way for so long, has become antiquated, and with the new possibilities of open finance, it was important that someone stepped in with an appropriate solution.   Vivid Money  Aside from simply spending money, an integral part of financial literacy is knowing how to save and invest. Vivid Money aims to help with this by acting as an investment broker. Similar to other investment apps, it gives you access to thousands of different stocks, exchange-traded funds, and cryptocurrency tokens. However, it sets itself aside from the others with its superior cashback feature. It boasts large cashback percentages if purchases are registered on the app.  Supplementally, it also helps you organize different accounts and reserves that you might hold in different currencies. In general, it has become a one-stop destination for most of one’s savings and investment needs which has helped it garner a large user base in Europe (based mainly in Germany). Depending on your preference, Vivid accounts can be added to Apple Pay and Google Pay, making it easy to use these funds for transactions daily too.   Read More: A Brave New World – Fascinating Real-Life Applications of Data Analytics  Credello  On their surface level, debt and loans can be a daunting duty for many. Credello is a fintech start-up that aims at changing that. By helping you compare different loan types and credit accounts, Credello assists you in getting an unbiased opinion on which option is the most appropriate for your current income type as well as the situation going forward.   By looking at personal loans, home loans, or credit card accounts on Credello, they claim you will not only get a good idea of which one is the best for you but will also help you learn about debt for future reference. Their experts help users chart a course to pay off debt and alter consumption accordingly. Depending on whether you choose the snowball or avalanche method, Credello helps you cover your debt in a manageable and efficient manner.  CowryWise  Similar to some of the aforementioned apps, Cowrywise aims to be a one-stop destination for all one’s money management needs. Although not particularly unique in its value proposition, Cowrywise was the first of its kind in Nigeria and one of the largest used personal finance startups in Africa as a whole.   With the main aim of helping users achieve financial freedom, CowryWise has features such as savings plans, rainy day funds, mutual funds, and investing in US stocks (although this feature has not been released just yet). Furthermore, it boasts better interest rates than what banks are offering, which is scarce considering the inflation crisis that is currently upon us.   Read More: Tech Stocks Slump is Triggering the Withdrawn of ESG Funds: Here's Why  Getting Started  With the growth in app development in the last few years, it was inevitable the world would see developers move towards fintech as it is quite a lucrative area. However, despite this, all the apps above bring genuine benefits to their users in their respective plights. Financial freedom is an elusive concept that everyone aims to reach one day. Yet, working on your paycheck alone is not enough. All of those who have made significant wealth have cited the importance of savings and investment aside from simply working a day job.   As investing in stocks and other asset classes become increasingly popular, citizens are given more apps that help facilitate that. With that being said, it is important to practice caution and care when operating with risky and non-risky investments. Furthermore, some of these services are relatively new, and while they may boast bank-like security, it is vital to consider everything before signing up for a service that manages your funds. When such high stakes are involved, ensure that you only use services that are tried and trusted and keep in mind that what might seem too good to be true likely is.   With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.    A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance.    

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Sustainability Investments Revolution & Climate Targets

The Sustainability Investments Revolution & its Impact on Climate Targets

Today the quest for sustainability is more focused on and requires action on many fronts, ranging from changes to supply networks, operations, and manufacturing processes to business models. This sudden rise in sustainable practices across industries has given rise to a great cleanup. With tightening regulations, pressure from investors, and shifting customer preferences to sustainable practices, companies are striving to reduce the burden of their actions on the planet.   For brands, the conventional goal is to achieve net zero in the holy grail. However, that is possible only through heavy investments on the one side and sacrificing margins on the other. But environmental responsibility has nothing to do with productivity and profitability. The way businesses perceive it is that sustainability is going mainstream, and they must incorporate components in their framework that align with and do not affect the many ways they operate.  But the pressure points on businesses are getting more complex than ever before. Now it is no longer just about their financial performance but also about how they manage the business. But it is not that difficult. While there is no real pressure from the outside, it is the competition with industry that is compelling businesses to try and transform their operations faster. Companies are facing pressure from their colleagues as well as investors, as capital markets are beginning to ask questions, and consumers are beginning to criticize brands for not incorporating more sustainable products or practices. This is adding to the risk profile of businesses along with the unpredictability in supply chains or the regulatory changes that are coming toward business.  The growth of sustainable finance, along with the increasing array of financial products, is attracting the attention of investors, policymakers, as well as various stakeholders, as it is showing its potential to deliver financial returns and aligns with societal values along with contributing to sustainability and climate-related objectives.  Read more: ESG and Impact Investing: The Future of Responsible Finance  What is Sustainable Impact Investing?  As per the statement issued by Security and Exchange Commission chairman Gary Gensler, investors with over $130 trillion in assets under management are more focused on working with companies who are willing to reveal their climate risks. Today, more and more investors are expressing their interest in investing in companies that consider climate risks and that are aware of their sustainable and social responsibilities. They are soliciting details about a company’s relationships, along with strategies employed to conduct and govern their businesses.  Sustainable impact investing is a strategy that aims to ensure that businesses produce positive social and environmental impacts along with their long-term financial gains. This socially responsible investment is also referred to as ESG investing as it considers the environmental, social, and corporate governance elements of a business.  Types of Sustainable Impact Investing  For portfolio investors, there are basically three distinct approaches to sustainable investing. They completely differ in their goals, strategies, as well as their effects on real-world outcomes.  Maximizing risk-adjusted returns  Aligning portfolios with values  Active stewardship  Sustainable investing or sustainable investment strategies encompasses a plethora of strategies that can be employed in combination. Here are some of the common ones:  Negative screening: It assists in eliminating corporations in industries that are deemed objectionable.  Norms-based screening: This helps in eliminating companies that infringe the set norms, including the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.  Positive screening: It is undertaken to select companies that exhibit strong ESG performance.  Sustainability-themed investing: This is deployed to focus on funds for clean water or renewable energy.  ESG integration: This involves ESG factors essential for fundamental analysis.  Active ownership: This assists in engaging deeply with portfolio organizations.  Impact investing: This type of investment targets companies that are driven to make a positive impact on an ESG issue while earning a market return.  Read more: The Rise of Sustainable Finance: 2022 Impact Investment Trends  The Rise of Sustainable Investing  Assets in sustainable mutual and exchange-traded funds or ETFs have experienced rapid growth recently. From the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2021, assets in these funds grew by 52 percent, reaching $362 billion. Broadridge Financial Solutions stated that the ESG assets could likely reach $30 trillion by 2030. However, despite this growth, sustainable investing is still not necessarily yielding greater returns.   While money is pouring into ESG funds, the world’s environmental and social crises are continuing to worsen. Is sustainable investing assisting organizations in helping combat climate change and advance a sustainable society?  But the underlying concern is- what is being called sustainable finance? And what is expected of ESG investing?  Investors are approaching sustainable investing as it accounts for and minimizes negative impacts as well as brings positive influences. There are different strategies, purposes, and approaches being incorporated to capture the true essence of sustainable investing or ESG investing.  Read more: Connecting the Dots: Sustainability 2.0 & Green-Line Growth  Sustainability in Fashion Industry  Today many industries, as well as fashion brands, use their investments in low-impact materials innovation as a siloed strategy and marketing tool to protect their relevance and reputation, as well as to alleviate shopper guilt. With the potential to reduce emissions in line with industry-wide targets, brands need to understand the impact reduction potential of their strategies and implement renewable energy in the supply chain to achieve the quantifiable result of net-zero targets.  With sustainability investing gaining momentum among investors, there is currently no public evidence why fashion brands are innovating and inventing components, including circular fiber, that is likely to have a significant impact on the emissions reduction strategies within the timeframe set for net-zero. With the focus shifting on decarbonization in the supply chain, fashion labels and other industries are employing more quantifiable and tangible impact reduction strategies in their operational framework.  Does this signify that the investment in circular fibers is essential? Yes.   Should it be the preliminary sustainability strategy of the fashion industry? Not necessarily.  Then why should it be positioned as the primary strategy?   Brands, for better or worse, tend to steer much of their investment dollars. And they work on solving the brands’ most pressing and public challenges instead of those of the industry that resides in the supply chain and makes the products.  Businesses today are more focused primarily on marketing businesses; they often overlook the vast emissions that are generated from their supply chain process or in-house operations. Today the phase of fashion waste is not hurting brands the most but is also being perceived as a threat to their NetZero emission goals. While this sort of public waste is ugly, it is reputationally risky for brands who are investing heavily in circular materials from recycled clothing and promoting sustainability.   Read more: Less Is More: Embracing the New Trends in Affordability and Sustainability  Establishing a More Effective Sustainable Investing   The diverse, inconsistent, unregulated practices of sustainable investing also pose a huge challenge to its efficacy. While there are no accepted definitions of what constitutes a sustainable investment, there have been no consistent regulations that force organizations to disclose their contribution to tackling the climate crisis.  However, in March 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a new rule that would require all U.S. publicly traded corporations to disclose to the government as well as their shareholders about the risks from climate change that could affect their business. These proposed rules will help establish a structured framework for organizations to report climate risks in their annual reports, along with stock registration statements. These real regulations will help establish and address climate change along with the sustainable practices in place.  When considering sustainable investing, it is vital to understand the three investing strategies and be realistic about the objectives, and set goals, along with strategies and outcomes. As an investor, it is important to do the homework in terms of how an organization is managed, what its climate goals are, and what strategies they employ to achieve them, along with how actively they engage with its management. However, what this ultimately indicates is that if businesses are not motivated to invest in solving their environmental and social impacts, investors will have to take the lead in their hands and drive ahead the objective of sustainability.  With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.                 A leader in ESG Consulting services, SG Analytics offers bespoke sustainability consulting services and research support for informed decision-making. Contact us today if you are in search of an efficient ESG integration and management solution provider to boost your sustainable performance.      

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Traditional Finance being Disrupted by Open Finance

Four Ways Traditional Finance is being Disrupted by Open Finance

For decades, financial institutions and their practices have often favored remaining antiquated rather than following innovation and opening themselves up to outside influence. As the age of technology dawned on us, many financial institutions and companies were able to bear the fruits of this new adoption. Now, it has become a necessity to succeed, and one cannot separate themselves from the competition with it.   With the improvements in the technology field, financial institutions have been forced out of comfort and into the open lens that the world has become accustomed to now. With all sorts of different companies, such as clothing manufacturers and fast-food companies having to be more transparent about their front and back-end operations, it was normal for finance to follow as well. With that comes open finance. Essentially, this means users can share and use their financial data through third parties. This is done through application programming interfaces (APIs). In layman’s terms, this is a way to give authorized third parties one’s required financial data in a safe and secure manner.   At first, this might sound slightly frightening, but it is likely that most of us are actively participating in this already. For example, when we use payment services such as GooglePay or Paypal, we authorize these third parties to access our banks as long as we enter our passcode. Similarly, Apple Pay can utilize its highly secure FaceID feature (in the phones that have it) to facilitate an even more safe transfer of funds. Furthermore, it uses a near-field communication chip in the back of its newer devices to make in-person payments by simply holding the phone close to a card swipe machine (payment terminal) to authorize a payment. It can also be used in other financial relationships such as mortgages, pensions, loans, and asset management.    Read More: The Rise of Sustainable Finance: 2022 Impact Investment Trends  Why Finance companies should embrace Open Finance:  Transparency between businesses, consumers, and third parties  Inclusion for countries with less official financial information  Gig Economies and Platforms based on them  Fosters Financial Innovation Through New Technologies  Transparency between Businesses, Consumers, and Third Parties  In the past, many services built on users’ financial data had to resort to data scraping. This is a technique that uses a script to find all public data on user finances. However, it is quite inefficient, and because of the lack of active participation, businesses aiming at developing new financial services are unable to gain key insights through market research as to whether this will be possible. In the new situation, data transparency has proved to be extremely beneficial for all parties involved.   For service providers and banks, conscious transparency means that the banks can ensure the secure sharing of data and avoid friction in programming solutions. Furthermore, the banks can control how much data is shared so that the process remains seamless, but unnecessary personal data is not transferred.  As for consumers, we are likely already reaping the benefits of open finance. However, there are many more applications that we can use to make our navigation of the financial world more ideal. For example, many developers are releasing applications that connect to your bank accounts to keep track of finances. This helps to categorize your monthly finances and support your budgeting needs. Other developers have also come up with apps that are able to link your many different bank accounts in one place so you can gain a holistic view of your current financial situation as well as the bills that needs to be paid. Furthermore, all payments are placed in the same place, and services like Google Pay can help you pay phone, electricity, and other bills along with general purchase payments as well.  Read More: Data & Analytics Strategy: Must-Have Crucial Elements for Decision Making  Inclusion for Countries with less official Financial Information  In many lesser developed economies, a lot of the financial transactions do not take place through banks. While this means it is not documented, for the most part, it is hard to gauge the flow of money within the economy without the use of open finance tools. In the case of governments, it is more challenging to create effective economic policies due to the lack of understanding of the economic situation. This means that legislative decisions would have to be made based on limited understanding. Similarly, companies and developers looking to launch new solutions will also struggle as they cannot garner a strong database to understand the demographic that they will be launching to. As a result, many MNCs choose not to release certain applications in these countries as it becomes more difficult to make large investments without a large knowledge base.  A good example of the benefits of open finance, in this case, is Minu, a Mexican application. It is a pay-on-demand service for employers to pay their employees. It creates a seamless method of transferring paychecks while bypassing the banks. Users can gain access to their funds immediately and are able to see their balance right away without having to worry about any additional fees other than the set fee that is required at withdrawal. Furthermore, employees can gain access to a paycheck early as many of the users work daily change, which means that (while the payroll is already scheduled) they can gain access to this money early in urgent cases. This is extremely important for financial inclusion, and apps like this work extremely well in improving economic efficiency and resource allocation.  Gig Economies and Platforms based on them  As mentioned earlier, many employees work on a day-to-day basis. Essentially, they do not have a set paycheck and earn different amounts on different days. Whether this means they are Uber drivers, and their pay is variable based on the frequency and length of their journeys, or they are IT technicians, and their compensation depends on the difficulty and duration of the jobs, many nations have seen burgeoning gig economies.  This was generally quite difficult to manage as most of these freelancers would have to go door to door or rely on word of mouth to ensure that their services reached the customers. For many, marketing costs were too high to bear, and they struggled because they were unable to educate the consumer on their services. However, with open finance, many of these problems have been solved. A large example of this has been delivery drivers. With large companies like UberEats and Doordash as well as smaller domestic food delivery companies, restaurants can gain a much large reach. Moreover, delivery drivers can find work by simply being on the app and accepting orders meaning that the amount they make is much less variable.   Fosters Financial Innovation through New Technologies  Although many of the previously mentioned applications might be favored by the banks because of their efficiency, there are certain applications that the banks might be against. This is because many of these solutions involve “cutting out the intermediary,” which normally means the banks. For example, banks make massive amounts of money on international transactions every day. This means that they can charge large fees as well as use exchange rates that favor them when authorizing transactions. For many years, this remained lucrative as it was the only option available. Short of exchanging currency in one country and simply carrying the cash over, one had very limited options in terms of making large transfers. However, with the help of open finance, companies like Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) help people make large transfers to different currencies for a fraction of the cost. To stay operational, they still take a fee based on the transaction size. However, it is quite meager and ensures that you lose very little when making the exchange.   Furthermore, Cryptocurrencies and blockchain-related solutions have made it so that people can get loans at extremely low-interest rates. In many countries, banks run the monopoly on deciding how much interest one must pay on loans, so newer solutions might also force banks to come closer to the national mandates and not take as much of a cut.   Read More: NFT Digital Art: The Technology that is Transforming Creativity  A Bold Step Forward As it has become clear over the years, transparency is the best policy going ahead. The main intention of most of this was to improve economic efficiency and open the channels to ensure collaboration between different sectors and finance. Finance has remained an elusive and slightly disconnected sector from the others. However, the new age of open finance is sure to disrupt the field with innovation coming in, in all different fields.  Furthermore, this has also massively benefited the lower and middle class in developing economies as it has enabled better employment opportunities while also facilitating a more financially inclusive environment for all. This not only helps individual citizens but is likely to be imperative in the overall development of the economy.   With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.   A market leader in Investment Research Services, SG Analytics assists in strengthening investment decisions by leveraging custom research support. Contact us today if you are in search of an investment research firm that offers tailored research support across a broad range of asset classes.  

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ESG and Sustainable Investing

ESG and Sustainable Investing: A Guide for ESG-Focused Investors in 2022

While investment and sustainability might seem like two entirely opposite aspects, the recent climate trends have forced them to collide. Often the process of making investment concerns vetting a company based on factors including business model, historical data performance, annual reports, and much more.  However, today investors have started considering additional fundamentals, i.e., ESG or Environmental, Social, and Governance. These aspects, when combined, form the basis of any new investment in an organization. Investor demand for sustainable investment funds to be incorporated into the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are expected to grow.  Investors are more focused on the short term right now. With interest rates on the rise and the cost of living soaring, Investors are more concerned about not losing their money rather than making 10% or 20%. Sustainable long-term value creation can be deemed impossible if corporates are not responsive to the permanent migration to building a low-carbon and climate-constrained economy.  This rapid growth in ESG incorporation has been a key factor in the investor exodus, with asset managers now seeking to demonstrate strong sustainability credentials. For organizations, there is no escaping the growing interest of investors in environmental, social, and corporate governance investing. With investors updating and finalizing their proxy voting guidelines for 2022, there will likely be potential for more votes being cast against board directors of organizations that do not demonstrate an understanding of ESG and sufficient disclosure.   Read more: Emphasizing the 'S' in ESG: How can HR Leaders Put ESG values in Context  What do You Mean by ESG Investing?  ESG investing practically signifies considering environmental, social, and governance criteria when evaluating enterprises to invest in and favoring companies that rate well with the set ESG criteria.  Environmental factors concern elements like - does the company contributes to greenhouse gas emission or generate other forms of pollution; how they conserve energy; their efforts around climate change; and how they use land, water, and other natural resources.     Social factors concern aspects like a company’s safety standards, its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, and its impact on the community.  Governance factors include elements like transparency in taxes and reporting, the structure of a firm board of directors, and its core values, especially integrity.   To assess the ESG factors of an organization, investors look at companies’ ESG scores when deciding on ESG investing. Investing in companies with ESG practices is an attractive investment strategy for a few reasons.   It helps them to align their investment dollars with their values.   Assessing a company’s ESG performance is a useful indicator of the risk as an investment.   Identifying ESG risks enables investors to steer clear of companies that are bound to cause trouble.  How Does ESG Affect Performance?  Measuring ESG investment performance is a complex factor as it depends on how ESG is being employed and measured. Two large meta-analyses of ESG impacts investigate the relationships between ESG factors and operating as well as investment performance. An analysis of over 1,000 studies undertaken between 2015 and 2020 found that 58% of firms showed a significant optimistic relationship for operating performance.  For investors who use ESG to guide investments, two main factors include - employing a positive tilt or a negative screening. However, if investors want to avoid owning, supporting, or receiving profit from companies, they agree with supporting those whom they believe are making a positive impact. Although this negative screening strategy avoids complicity, it does not allow investors to engage with management to influence the changes. This strategy allows diversification across sectors as well as helps investors in retaining their ability to vote for companies that are invested in building a better future.  Read more: Integrating ESG in Company Culture – A Move to Drive Resilience  However, the relationships between ESG factors and investment returns are mixed. As ESG criteria are not understood and measured in the same way in multiple industries, it is still unclear whether good ESG behavior is likely to lead to good performance or if better-performing firms simply have additional resources to conduct ESG activities.  The Shifting Investment Focus in 2022  The top priority for ESG-focused investors in 2022 is likely to remain the decarbonization of the economy, commencing with the energy sector. While it has been the primary focus of mitigation in recent years, emissions from energy-related sectors still account for 70% of the global total.  Investors seeking ESG opportunities in 2022 are focused on following ongoing trends and emerging as specialist ones. Decarbonization in the energy sector will keep upward track of demand investment for decades to come.  The rising demand for power and energy is also playing a supporting factor and is expected to double by 2050.  This has placed a priority on establishing renewable generation sources, and progress is underway. Renewable energy is expected to be accountable for 85% of the global energy mix in 2050.   As per the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA, the investment flow required to make this happen will amount to an estimated US$115 trillion. This constitutes allocating US$34 trillion for renewable energy, US$52 trillion for energy efficiency, tech as well as materials, and US$29 trillion for energy infrastructure and transportation. Clean energy is emerging as the key to combating climate change. However, the global transition to net zero carbon emissions is accelerating across industries.  Read more: The Rise of Sustainable Finance: 2022 Impact Investment Trends  Along with energy and emissions, companies are also expected to focus on more specific aspects of the ESG spectrum- Biodiversity. Businesses are now focusing their attention on the need to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the planet. One of the headlines accords at COP26 was the Declaration on Forests and Land Use - a pledge aimed to end deforestation by 2030, covering almost 85% of all forests on the planet.  Another component that is gaining strong support from the investors is the ‘S’ in ESG. An interest in the social elements of the ESG is accompanying the transition to building a net-zero world. This gain has added impetus to initiatives to rectify the impacts of the pandemic.  Companies that reward increased diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace are also showing up as a popular category on the investor radar. From more women employed and stakeholders in the boardrooms to financial inclusion in emerging global economies, asset managers are integrating more D&I considerations in their investment decisions.  Key Takeaways  Better guidelines are enabling investors to bring the needed transparency to ESG labels.  The market extremities are testing the resilience of ESG policies for an organization as well as its shareholders.  In three broad categories - the Europe-focused, US-focused, and global - ESG equity investments have done better in 2022, on average, than their non-ESG counterparts in the market.  The rapid growth in ESG funds is coinciding with a bull market that ended in 2022, making this lull a test for portfolio managers as well as investors.  Read more: ESG metrics for Businesses - Time to Deliver the Promise of Sustainability  Conclusion  Priorities are changing in the turbulent markets. Board members are now recalibrating their oversight to accommodate these changes and meet the requirements of regulators, stakeholders, as well as investors. Due to the growing scrutiny and market expectations, organizations realize value, identifying opportunities quickly and confidently facing them with a more rigorous ESG governance and data measurement process.   Asset managers are also adding ESG matters as a standing agenda item in their strategies to offer a deeper understanding of the company’s disclosure process as well as to regularly assess the company’s progress, risk, financial implications, and the integration of ESG considerations into the core business. While this seems logical, investors are also focusing on companies delivering fewer ESG returns in the short run than those performing poorly on material ESG criteria. However, investors are happy to pay more when good returns are being generated.   Considering all the parameters, it is also important for businesses to be overwhelmed by this world of ESG ratings and trends. By incorporating investment strategies guided by environmental, social, and governance factors, businesses can start a conversation and discover a broad range of ways to incorporate ESG investing into their long-term plan. This will not only help attract more ESG-focused investors but also will help in shaping a strong investment strategy.  With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.               A leader in ESG Consulting services, SG Analytics offers bespoke sustainability consulting services and research support for informed decision-making. Contact us today if you are in search of an efficient ESG integration and management solution provider to boost your sustainable performance.   

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