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Whole Foods keeps signaling the death of the brand as we know it

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST


  • Amazon said last week that it intends to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. 
  • Since then, executives have made numerous comments hinting at future disruption, including private label groceries and big changes to stores.
  • CEO John Mackey says he will start prioritizing customers over workers — a huge departure from the previous strategy. 

Whole Foods could become unrecognizable under Amazon. 

Ever since it emerged last week that the online behemoth intends to buy the online grocer for $13.7 billion, all signs have pointed to big changes at Whole Foods. 

"I don’t know if you know that— they were, like, ranked the number-one most innovative company in the entire world," founder and CEO John Mackey told investors after the deal was announced. "I think we’re gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we’re gonna see a lotta technology. I think you’re gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds."

Amazon has previously unveiled a grocery store concept with no cashiers, registers, or lines — a marked difference from Whole Foods' workers-first culture. 


Mackey seemed to indicate that focusing on workers — the company famously pays well and offers benefits — was a mistake that hurt customers

"By God, we're gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon," Mackey said. "They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And — we — we're gonna be the same way."

It's estimated that Whole Foods has lost up to 14 million customers in the past two years as Kroger and Aldi offer cheaper versions of the same product. 

Mackey also indicated the company would be open to selling products under different labels on Amazon. 

"Over time, there could be other formats that evolve that— that might— wouldn’t be branded Whole Foods Market, potentially, wouldn’t be our standards," Mackey said.

Whole Foods' website said it only sells products "that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats." 

The brand has already attempted to shed its expensive image by opening a line of cheaper 365 stores that only sell private label products. 

While the potential deal has ratcheted up uncertainty for Whole Foods and its workers, it's clear that something needed to change. 

"That Whole Foods can't turn around its fortunes is, in our opinion, the result of several fundamental flaws in its business model," Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consulting firm GlobalData, wrote in a note to clients. "Over the past few years, these cracks have become more pronounced, and the company has done seemingly little to correct them."

If you're a Whole Foods worker with a story to share contact retail@businessinsider.com. 

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GOLDMAN SACHS: The death of malls will fuel 'degentrification'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

snowy deserted empty mall

As nationwide chains gobbled up retail space across the country, they did so at the expense of smaller mom-and-pop shops. 

But now, as the brick-and-mortar chains die a slow and painful death, small businesses could make a comeback by filling the void, according to two Goldman Sachs executives.

Speaking on the firm's podcast, Kim Posnett, head of internet investment banking, and Kathy Elsesser, head of the healthcare and consumer and retail investment banking divisions, explained how exactly ecommerce is effecting physical retail stores.  

"I think there will become a degentrification, for lack of a better word," says Posnett. "We will see the rents come down, and mom and pops shops will come back in a much more curated, personal way that goes along these lines of creating great service and a sense of community, and a desire to support your community."

But these retail resurrections will need to consider the new business landscape if they want to catch ecommerce's 15% annual growth rate. (Retail as a whole is only growing about 3% per year.)

"It's not just about ecommerce versus brick-and-mortar," says Elsesser. "It's also about how are people spending. And it's travel, it's restaurants, it's media, it's entertainment, it's lodging. Versus the more accessories, apparel and personal consumer goods we saw in the past."

Shoppers want to connect with a brand on a personal level, say Posnett and Elsesser. For example, a coffee shop is no longer just selling a cup of joe, it's selling a place to work on your laptop or relax. Grocery stores have realized this too, and have installed restaurants and coffee shops to drive traffic.

"It has to be more than just the product," says Elsesser. "More about the experience as a whole."

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You Can Now Type the Bitcoin 'B' Symbol in Unicode Text

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A decades-old computer character standard has been updated with a symbol for bitcoin.


Furious Hamptons residents say 'Uber for helicopters' makes living there 'unbearable'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

BladeThe rise in traffic from private jets and helicopters traveling to the Hamptons is causing residents grief.

The introduction of new ride-sharing helicopter companies, most notably BLADE, has made air travel there more convenient. But that means noise many residents aren't happy about, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The service, which has been called "Uber for helicopters" costs as little as $695 for a one-way seat to the Hamptons and takes just 40 minutes to travel from Midtown Manhattan to the end of Long Island. 

East Hampton, which has its own airport that serves small charter planes, private jets, and helicopters, is one of the worst spots for noise pollution. 

More than 26,000 aircraft-related noise complaints were registered in 2016, up from about 24,000 the previous year, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing city data. 

Kathleen Cunningham, a full-time East Hamptons resident, lives three miles away from the airport.

“Helicopters have made it unbearable with ride-sharing,” she told Business Insider,

“It completely changes your ability to function, sometimes it’s so loud you can’t think. If there are multiple flights, you are in a state of hyper-alert; it’s like you’re being attacked," she said. 

It’s not just East Hampton, other Long Island towns are also suffering. Nearby Westhampton has shown its solidarity by posting a link to a noise complaint registry (Air Noise Report) on the town website to allow its residents to make complaints. So far, there have been 10,283 complaints in 2017.

According to Cunningham, the summer months are the worst. “You end up welcoming a rainy day," she said. 

Cunningham is one of many residents who has been advocating against the noise pollution and supporting the town in its legal action to bring back curfews on when these flights can occur. 

These curfews, which previously prevented flights from being scheduled during nighttime hours and limited the amount of trips that a specific aircraft could take, were removed after air-charter operators sued the town and the case was taken to court.

The case is now sitting with the US Supreme Court and East Hampton residents are expecting to hear whether it will be heard this month. 

"I don't expect they will," said Cunningham, "but I am hopeful."

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One of the largest hedge fund launches of the year is closing its doors to new money

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

security guard

One of the largest hedge fund launches of the year is closing its doors to new money.

Holocene Advisors, a New York-based firm that launched in April, is closing to new capital, including from existing investors, on July 1, people familiar with the matter said.

The firm is expected to manage around $2 billion, up from the $1.5 billion that it launched with three months ago. 

It is not clear when the firm will reopen to outside money.

Holocene's size was already big by current hedge fund launch standards, and comes as some industry titans are shutting.

The fund has long been expected to be one of this year's largest, with founder Brandon Haley said to be putting in a significant amount of his net worth into the fund. The firm was expected to initially employ a stock strategy focused on the consumer, industrials and tech, and media and telecommunications sectors, people familiar with the matter previously told Business Insider.

Haley previously was Citadel's global head of equities from 2005 to 2015.

SEE ALSO: Wall Street has a lot riding on the most expensive House election ever

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“Free Ross” Account Glitch Latest Symptom of Coinbase Woes

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST


The “Free Ross” campaign which raises funds for jailed Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht experienced a glitch last week, renewing concerns about the stability of the digital currency exchange Coinbase. This occurrence comes on the heels of Ulbricht’s latest appeal for release which was just denied in May.

A Twitter message from @free_ross dated June 15, 2017, created a bit of a social media firestorm. In it, his mother Lyn Ulbricht wrote:

Later that day, Ulbricht confirmed that the Free Ross account on Coinbase had been re-enabled. In an email to Bitcoin Magazine, she remarked “I think they responded promptly because of the uproar on social media. We are not so sure of their explanation of why it happened and are looking into the record on that now.”

Later she responded, “They [Coinbase] said it was an automatic security response.”

The Free Ross account does not store all of its bitcoins on Coinbase. Rather, it was established as a convenient way to convert donations into U.S. dollars.

This recent hiccup comes as Coinbase, perhaps the world’s most popular bitcoin exchange, continues to face a litany of complaints from users. There have been numerous reports that the exchange shutters user accounts without reason or notice.  It has been alleged that Coinbase frequently flags and freezes accounts when even the smallest hint of suspicious activity is suspected. In some cases, there have been complaints among users saying that any coins they had in the account at the time were never returned to them.

In a Coinbase blog post on June 4, CEO Brian Armstrong acknowledged the need for changes to address the negative customer experiences, which he attributed to growing demands on the Coinbase system.

We’re storing customer funds, and I can understand how incredibly frustrating (and scary) it is when an issue arises and you can’t get a prompt response. We haven’t done enough to keep up with the growth, and we’re taking steps now to correct it. - Brian Armstrong

 Armstrong also set forth a plan to address some of the scaling solutions that Coinbase plans to implement later this year, including faster customer support response times and a new system to flag “risky withdrawals.” He indicated that the company has hired a consultant to consult on scaling and the introduction of phone support.

Bitcoin Magazine reached out to both Coinbase and Armstrong about the company’s continuing service woes in light of the problems with the FreeRoss account. In response to our questions, Megan Hernbroth from the strategic communications department at Coinbase, stated, “This account was initially blocked due to automated security feature because of the links between this account and a previously compromised one” and referred us to the following Tweet:

She also referred us back to the June 4th blog post in lieu of comment on Coinbase’s other service concerns.

Regulatory Challenges and a New Hire

In a recent announcement on its blog, Coinbase announced that former federal prosecutor Kathryn Haun would be joining its Board of Directors. Haun was the U.S. Department of Justice’s first-ever digital currency head and was tasked with addressing financial, cyber-crime, gang and national security concerns.

Among the investigations that she oversaw were those that led to the prosecution of the two federal agents accused of theft and corruption in the Silk Road case. Both are currently serving prison sentences.

Reports that Haun would be assisting Coinbase did not sit well with many in the Bitcoin community. And the fact that her appointment occurred the day after the Free Ross account was suspended was a hot topic of discussion on sites like Reddit.

It should be noted that given its rise in prominence as the leading bitcoin exchange in the U.S., Coinbase has been experiencing a flurry of regulatory scrutiny over the past 18 months. According to the Coinbase site, it is registered as a Money Services Business with FinCEN; as such, it is subject to stringent anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) compliance requirements in addition to state laws.

In a major development which occurred last year on this front, the IRS requested a John Doe summons as part of a bitcoin probe, seeking to identify and capture Coinbase user information in the U.S. associated with someone who conducted transactions in the digital currency.

On the regulatory front, a bill being pursued in Congress called the “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017” seeks to, among other things, further target exchanges like Coinbase under the strictures of anti-money laundering regulations. Moreover, Congress is considering including cryptocurrency holdings over $10,000 on the list of reporting requirements when travelers are entering or leaving the U.S.

When asked about Coinbase amid this onslaught of regulatory activity, Perry Woodin, a computer engineer and CEO of the blockchain governance company, Node40 had this to say: “I suspect that Coinbase is suffering from the growing pains of being the leader in a rapidly evolving industry. Add to that growth, a changing states-based regulatory scene that requires Coinbase to jump through ever changing hoops, and customer service is bound to suffer. Coinbase has reported issues where Wyoming, Hawaii and Minnesota have overly burdensome regulations, forcing the exchange to withdraw from those states.”  

Issues Persist

As Armstrong asserted in his blog post, some of the technical and service issues facing Coinbase may be attributed to the increasing demand they’re facing amid the meteoric rise taking place in the cryptocurrency world. Nevertheless, concerns abound about frequent outages that throttle buy and sell orders, often for extended periods of time. There have also been instances during these major price movement periods where the Coinbase site couldn’t be accessed at all.

Lamented libertarian singer and songwriter Tatiana Moroz: “I have had countless problems with Coinbase, from repeated errors on the platform to it not being accessible when I’ve needed to sell or buy bitcoin most. It's not a few isolated incidents; it's ongoing.”

Moroz went on to say that Coinbase’s customer service has basically been nothing short of a “nightmare.”

“It makes me feel completely uncared for as a customer and I know I'm not the only one. I have sent service tickets that take 2-3 weeks for them to reply to. Their fees are also high. And there never seems to be a way to reach a human, which is very scary when you have your money there.”  

The Reddit post seems to underscore the frustration experienced by Moroz and scores of others regarding user experience snafus.

“Unfortunately, the subpar tier one support can cause angst that rapidly spreads across social media,” said Woodin. “I don’t know what recourse there is for users who have lost coins. I do hope that, as Coinbase continues to grow and expand, that they put more emphasis on customer support and service. Doing so will save Coinbase and their customers from unnecessary headaches.”

Lack of Options

Woodin also points to a frequently overlooked, central issue in this discussion, namely, the lack of  consumer choice and competition in terms of exchanges currently in the markets. He attributes this in large part to expense and regulatory climate factors associated with launching a new exchange.

“No doubt, it can be prohibitively expensive to meet the licensing requirements imposed by many states. Movement of fiat currency is highly regulated which means any competition coming to market would have a high financial burden for compliance. I do not see this changing anytime soon.”

Moroz echoed this notion, surmising that Coinbase’s troubles are in part regulatory in nature: “What's troubling is that the regulations and other barriers to entry allow it to operate as a monopoly essentially, and it's difficult to avoid using them if convenience is a factor. I’d like to also note that they seem to have a presence at so few of the major conferences. Frankly, this makes me wonder about how supportive they are of the Bitcoin community in the first place.”  

Libertarian economist and free-market advocate Jeffrey Tucker, in conversation Bitcoin Magazine, also weighed in with a final thought: “The fact is that there should be tens of thousands of exchanges. And there were scores that were already opening up before government intervened and forced all of these regulations on everybody. And, of course, that created a cartelized market with only a handful of players dominating everything. That allows them to exploit their customers by raising rates, by providing inferior service, not innovating. Currently, the exchange business is a non-competitive sector that, in my view, is a disaster for Bitcoin.”

The post “Free Ross” Account Glitch Latest Symptom of Coinbase Woes appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

The head of HR at a top Wall Street bank shares the secrets to getting ahead in finance

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

RBC HR head

It's intern season on Wall Street.

Across the financial world, young hopefuls are figuring out what it takes to stand out among the legions of interns so they can nab jobs at some of Wall Street's top firms.

Business Insider recently spoke with someone who knows what it takes to get ahead: Liz Lieberman, a human-resources veteran on Wall Street.

Before she joined RBC Capital Markets as a managing director and head of US human resources, Lieberman was the global head of HR at the Royal Bank of Scotland. She also held top HR roles at Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Deutsche Bank, according to her LinkedIn page. She's been with RBC Capital Markets since October.

The firm finished 2016 ranked 10th for investment-banking fees in the US, according to Dealogic, increasing its market share. According to the data firm Coalition, it ranked ninth for total investment-banking revenues — including banking and sales and trading — in the Americas in the first half of 2016.

Lieberman's extensive experience in seeking out top talent in the world of finance means she knows what it takes to land a spot at a Wall Street firm. Business Insider asked her to share some insights.

She told BI about the qualities she looks for in new hires, the skills she thinks are in high demand, and the interview question that job hunters need to nail.

Frank Chaparro: What qualities do you look for in new hires?

Liz Lieberman: I'm drawn to people who show a natural proclivity towards learning and individuals who aren't afraid to have an opinion and challenge others. When I was starting my career, my boss told me: "Whenever someone asks you your opinion, you give it." It taught me to trust my instincts and stand strong in my convictions, and I look for those same qualities in potential hires. Also, I look for humor — I spend a large portion of my week at work, and I want to have a laugh with colleagues, especially during high-stress, looming-deadline moments.

Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 10.08.25 AMMore generally at RBC, we look for team players who demonstrate a collaborative approach — people who say "we," not "I." We want people who are the "right fit," and this means that they complement our culture, which is purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-focused. We call this our "collective ambition," and we want people who show integrity; put the client first; are accountable, inclusive, and innovative; and encourage diversity.

Chaparro: Has your hiring criteria changed?

Lieberman: Absolutely. When I began my career, the structure was hierarchical, authoritative. The relationship between manager and his or her subordinate resembled parent and child. These days, we work as equals. We value creativity and collaboration over rules and restrictions.

I joined RBC last year, and I noticed immediately how RBC has a very flat organizational structure that allows for strong ideas to move to fruition. It impacts our hiring decisions. When we select new employees, we are choosing people who will fully participate in our decisions, employees who will influence and challenge us and hold the mirror up to our flaws, because we want to continue improving as a firm and as a trusted adviser to our clients.

At RBC, we support the millennial mindset of coming to the table with ideas and being agents of change. In fact, we launched an employee resource group called RFuture to connect young, dynamic thinkers with senior decision-makers and implement change. We are not hierarchical, and we encourage and empower people to share their opinions. It's one of the best things about working here.

Chaparro: What's the one most-important interview question for prospective new hires?

Lieberman: "What are you passionate about?" That tells me a lot about a person — what their strengths are and what motivates them.

Chaparro: What skills do you expect to be in demand in the future?

A Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) sign is seen outside of a branch in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Lieberman: People skills are essential: how to manage people, how to collaborate, how to inspire and influence. We call them the softer skills but they are, in fact, very important skills.

I'm hesitant to place a value on some skills over others, since we need different people with different skill sets from different backgrounds. Diversity is essential. We want to be looking at problems from as many different angles as possible so we arrive at the best solution possible.

And my last thought on skills is this: Nobody is good at everything, and that's why you build a team with people who have diverse skill sets.

Chaparro: Once someone has started at the firm, how do they stand out?

Lieberman: They must do their work well, and they must show a willingness to leap in, roll up their sleeves, and participate. People make an impact by contributing. They bring energy and enthusiasm and ideas to meetings.

I cannot overstate the importance of finding a good cultural fit here at RBC. The best candidates, and long-term employees, understand our culture and complement it — they put the client first, they consider how the broader platform will benefit rather than just themselves or their immediate team. They look to simplify the way we work so we are agile and innovative. Working with these types invariably winds up being the most enjoyable parts of my day.

Chaparro: How do you look at candidates with STEM backgrounds versus those with liberal-arts backgrounds?

Lieberman: What people study is important, but it's not crucial. We look at a broad range of skills and backgrounds, and if a candidate is passionate about our business and shows a willingness to learn, then that can go a long way in the interview process.

For some of the technical roles, it's better to have a STEM background. However, some of our best hires have been candidates with liberal-arts backgrounds who applied themselves and rose the ranks through sheer hard work, perseverance, and a hunger to learn and grow.

SEE ALSO: Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe shares her advice for entrepreneurs

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WALL STREET PAYDAY: 2 firms stand to make $45 million from a big pharma deal

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

leonardo dicaprio wolf of wall street throwing money rich

A small Wall Street firm has landed a big payday thanks to a $4.5 billion deal between a multi-billion dollar private equity firm and a pharmaceutical firm. 

Parexel, a pharmaceutical research firm, announced on Tuesday that it would be acquired by Pamplona Capital Management, a private equity and advisory firm with $10 billion under management. Pamplona agreed to pay about $88 per share in cash for Parexel.

Perella Weinberg Partners worked as Pamplona's adviser on the deal. The financial advisory firm, which was founded in 2006, maintains offices in nine cities including New York and London, and has 600 employees.

The firm is set to make around $10 million to $15 million for its role in the deal, according to data from Freeman & Co. 

Goldman Sachs, Parexel's adviser, should receive about $25 million to $30 million. 

SEE ALSO: Morgan Stanley is going after a $500 billion opportunity

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Check out how the shorts have been piling into Wall Street's most hated pharma stock

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Over the last couple of months, Wall Street short sellers have been piling into a drug company called Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

Short sellers bet that a stock's price will fall. To do so they have to borrow shares from other holders in the market, which they then sell. That's how we can find out how quickly bets against a company have been stacked up.

In Mallinckrodt's case, IHS Markit says that demand to borrow shares has jumped 4 fold since January. Currently, borrows (the red line below) sit at 10% of the outstanding stock.

MNK short interest

Mallinckrodt has been a topic of debate on the Street for almost two years. At first, the concern was over its business model: a propensity for large acquisitions and big price increases in the drugs it owns drew some comparisons to Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a Wall Street darling that turned into a nightmare. Also, as public scrutiny of drug price hikes grew during the Presidential campaign, the stock was flagged as one that was at high risk should lawmakers try and do something about the issue.

But the short sellers have become much more vocal about their attacks against Mallinckrodt this year. An early short-seller, Citron Research's Andrew Left has questioned the efficacy of its blockbuster drug, called Acthar. 

Kynikos Associates founder Jim Chanos meanwhile has been focusing on Acthar's distribution system. To sell Acthar, Mallinckrodt relies on pharmacy benefits managers. The largest of these is Express Scripts, and — through various subsidiaries — it helps sell, distribute, and provide patient assistance for Acthar.

The risk to Mallinckrodt is that this is the kind of relationship has legislators in Washington talking on both sides of the aisle as they try to figure out how to lower the price of drugs. Critics worry that, since pharmacy benefit managers take a cut from drugs that make it to their clients, they're incentivized to pass along more expensive drugs, not cheaper ones.

Mallinckrodt has responded to the attacks, by noting that Express Scripts isn't its only distributor and that it has trials underway to demonstrate the efficacy of Achtar for uses other than infantile spasms. 



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What you need to know on Wall Street today

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Welcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours. Sign up here to get this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. 

Amazon shocked the world last week when it announced a $13.7 billion deal to buy organic-grocer Whole Foods — a warning shot that officially put competing grocers on notice and sent their shares tumbling

In a town hall meeting the day the deal was announced, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shed light on how the deal went down — and it's unorthodox. Here's what you need to know:

On Wall Street, Jefferies sent out a worrying signal for Wall Street trading. Japanese bank Nomura is planning to take on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs' new online lending business has already hit a $1 billion milestone. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein also explained why he started antagonizing President Trump on Twitter.

Wall Street pumped money into the most expensive House election ever. And New York Fed President Bill Dudley is pushing a dangerous economic idea, according to Business Insider's Pedro da Costa. 

The 'Fearless Girl' on Wall Street is racking up advertising awards at Cannes. Here's why people are still talking about the Wall Street statue from a $2.5 trillion fund manager.

And it's intern season on Wall Street, so we put together 32 life hacks to help you survive life in NYC.

Over in the UK, the Serious Fraud Office charged Barclays and four former executives with "conspiracy to commit fraud" and with receiving "unlawful financial assistance" after a probe into a 2008 capital raising funded by Qatari investors. Former chief executive John Varley was among the four individuals charged.

And billionaire investor George Soros has warned that Brexit is a "lose-lose proposition" which will trap the UK in a spiral of growing household debt, collapsed consumer spending, and falling living standards.

In markets news, oil hit a seven-month low, and could fall to the $30 range, according to a technical strategist at Bank of America. 

In other news, a startup wants to regenerate the heart and brain to keep people healthier for longer. The Trump administration is gearing up to take an official stance on prescription drug prices. And Martin Shkreli wants to cut his bail by $3 million to pay back taxes and his lawyers after reporting a $70 million net worth.

The company behind the $1000 strollers used by Gwynneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham is up for sale.

Tesla may be about to make a huge push into ChinaFord may have just placed itself in a perilous situation with Trump. And Qatar Airways is once again the best airline in the world.

Lastly, here's the century-old technology delaying the New York City subway every day.

SEE ALSO: The 27 most important finance books ever written

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Bitcoin Miners Are Signaling Support for the New York Agreement: Here’s What that Means

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Miners Are Signaling Support for the New York Agreement: Here’s What that Means.

As of today, over 80 percent of miners (by hash power) are including the letters “NYA” in the blocks they mine. This follows the publication of letters (translation) in which a group of Chinese Bitcoin companies — notably including most mining pool operators — announced that they would signal support for “the New York Agreement.”

Here’s what this means in the context of Bitcoin Core’s scaling roadmap, the upcoming BIP148 user activated soft fork (UASF) on August 1, 2017, and Bitcoin’s broader scaling debate.

The New York Agreement

The New York Agreement, sometimes referred to as “the Silbert Accord” or “SegWit2x,” is a scaling agreement forged within a significant group of international Bitcoin companies and published just before the Consensus 2017 conference in New York last May. Based on this agreement, a fork of the Bitcoin Core software client is being developed under the name “BTC1.” BTC1 developer Jeff Garzik announced the alpha release of this software last week.

While technical specifics for BTC1 are still being worked out, it seems more or less certain that rollout of the New York Agreement essentially consists of two stages.

The first stage regards deployment of Segregated Witness (SegWit), the backwards compatible protocol upgrade originally proposed by the Bitcoin Core development team. With 80 percent has power support, BTC1 should actually trigger activation of the SegWit implementation embedded in Bitcoin Core clients and should also be compatible with BIP148 clients as long as activation happens before August 1st. With BTC1’s “official” release date set for July 21st, this should be possible.

The second stage concerns the deployment of the hard fork itself, which is not backwards compatible with older Bitcoin clients. This hard fork would double Bitcoin’s “base block size limit” to two megabytes, which combined with the block size limit increase brought by Segregated Witness should make for a total maximum of eight megabytes of block space. This is scheduled for exactly three months after activation of the first stage. So if the “BIP148 deadline” of August 1st is met, the second stage should go into effect before November 1, 2017.

Through letters published shortly after the announcement of the BTC1 alpha software, Chinese mining pool operators confirmed their intent to honor the New York Agreement. Additionally, they announced to include the letters “NYA” in their “coinbase strings.” That’s what we’ve been seeing today.

So what does this “NYA” string actually mean?

Signaling and Signaling

For each block miners mine, they get to send themselves one transaction that includes brand new bitcoins. This is called the “coinbase transaction.” (Not to be confused with the company “Coinbase.”) Like all transactions, this transaction can include a little bit of extra data that actually has nothing to do with the transaction itself. This is what miners sometimes use to “signal” information to the rest of the world.

Broadly speaking, there are really two types of “signaling.”

The first type is signaling support. This requires that actual Bitcoin software has been written to monitor the signals and, once these signals reach some kind of threshold, something actually activates in all of these Bitcoin clients. For example, code for the Segregated Witness soft fork as included in Bitcoin Core clients, will enforce the Segregated Witness rules once 95 percent of newly mined blocks include a specific piece of data in the coinbase strings. If that happens, all these nodes will actually reject transactions and blocks that break the SegWit rules.

The second type is signaling intent. As opposed to signaling support, signaling intent doesn’t actually do anything on a technical level. Rather, it's literally miners sending a message to the world, which has in the past, for example, been used to state a preference for a potential scaling solution. (While miners can also do this through letters or blog posts, coinbase signaling cannot possibly be faked, so it’s a bit more reliable.)

The recent “NYA” signaling is of the second type. It doesn’t actually trigger any code, but it instead lets the world know that the miners intend to support the New York Agreement. Specifically, they indicate that they will be signaling support for the New York Agreement once the BTC1 client is officially released: presumably by July 21st, or at least in time for August 1st. (Though earlier is possible, too.)

But notably, most miners are not signaling support yet — even though it’d be possible to activate SegWit through existing activation methods implemented in Bitcoin Core or BIP148 clients straight away.

Hard Fork

The technical specifics for BTC1 are still being worked out, and that’s especially true for the hard fork part of it.

Right now, it seems that signaling support for SegWit2x should also trigger the hard fork code to be implemented in all BTC1 clients — but only three months down the road. So if SegWit activates before August, BTC1 users should start accepting, and potentially mining, “base blocks” larger than one megabyte by November. In fact, the first base block on the BTC1-chain, the “cut-off block,” will likely even have to be bigger than one megabyte.

But it’s far from certain that most non-BTC1 clients will follow this chain. Most notably, the odds of Bitcoin Core — currently the dominant client on the network — adopting the SegWit2x hard fork seem slim. None of the regular Bitcoin Core contributors were part of the New York Agreement, none of them support it, and contentious hard forks have so far not been implemented by the Bitcoin Core development team, more or less as a matter of policy. And even if the Bitcoin Core development team does merge the hard fork code, it would require all users to upgrade to this new version, which is probably even less likely.

As such, if BTC1 users — such as the New York Agreement signatories — follow through and actually run the software three months after the soft fork, there will likely be a split in the Bitcoin network. Some nodes will follow a chain with bigger blocks, some will stick to smaller blocks, and there would effectively be two different coins with a shared history.

But it is too soon to say how such a scenario will play out exactly —  or if it will happen in the first place. Three months is a long time in Bitcoin terms and, in the end, neither written agreements, nor signaling intent are binding on a Bitcoin protocol level.

The post Bitcoin Miners Are Signaling Support for the New York Agreement: Here’s What that Means appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

The 13 best adults-only, all-inclusive hotels in the Caribbean

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST


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A top Wall Street analyst explains why you should put just as much work into a LinkedIn message as an interview

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

unnamed 9

Matthew Eckler has an unusual background for a Wall Streeter. 

He didn't attend a top business school, nor did he get a degree in finance or economics. The senior biotech analyst holds a BS in biology and a PhD in molecular biology. And before Eckler nabbed a position at RBC Capital Markets, the investment bank, he was working full-time in a lab studying the effects of certain foods on mice. 

We recently met up with Eckler to ask him his advice for young people interested in a career on Wall Street. He said wannabes should be prepared when they reach out to Wall Streeters on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. 

"I get lots of responses to job postings we place on LinkedIn," he said. "Unfortunately, only about 10% of applicants understand what the role is asking of them." 

According to Eckler, they're not doing their homework. 

"For example, some candidates don't understand the difference between the buy side and sell side and will email me saying they are applying for the job because they want to invest money," Eckler said. 

"I sit on the Research team where our job is to make investment recommendations, but we aren’t a fund inside of RBC," he added. 

Eckler said reaching out to a Wall Streeter and displaying a strong interest in the field is not enough to get noticed. As such, he advises Wall Street hopefuls approach reaching out on LinkedIn with the same preparation as an interview. 

"One PhD student reached out to me recently. He was prepared and knew the name of some of the companies we cover. He’d put together a basic model and I was impressed."

Take note. 

SEE ALSO: An investment banker explains why aspiring Wall Streeters should read every section of the newspaper

SEE ALSO: BLACKROCK TALENT HEAD: 'We are hiring more liberal arts majors'

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This startup wants to regenerate the heart and brain to keep people healthier for longer

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST


  • BlueRock Therapeutics is a regenerative-medicine startup. Headquartered in Boston, its two lead programs are based in Toronto and New York City.
  • Its approach is to develop stem cells that transform into specific adult cells that can be used to replace cells that otherwise won't grow back — like heart-muscle cells after a heart attack.
  • The company launched in 2016 and raised $225 million from Bayer and Versant Ventures as part of a wave of new investments in regenerative medicine.

A company that wants to regenerate the heart and brain could change the way we treat people who have had a heart attack or Parkinson's disease.

BlueRock Therapeutics is the creation of pharma giant Bayer and Versant Ventures, which set out create a next-generation regenerative-medicine company. After talking about their idea for a company with academic leaders, they were connected to Gordon Keller, a senior scientist at the University Health Network in Toronto.

Keller happened to have some programs that he was eager to get picked up by a company. Along with Keller came other researchers, who became the company's scientific cofounders. BlueRock Ventures launched in 2016 with $225 million in funding.

"It's a good example of a domino effect to building relationships with academics that they want their colleagues to succeed," Jerel Davis at Versant Ventures said.

BlueRock's first two programs are treatments that could regenerate heart muscle cells after heart attacks and help replace certain neurons in the brain as they decline in people with Parkinson's disease. The programs are still in early days, with the Parkinson's program aiming to start its clinical trials in 2018.

It's part of a wave of new investments in regenerative medicine. According to a report from Goldman Sachs, venture capital in companies pursuing regenerative medicine increased from $296 million in 2011 to $807 million in 2016, growing about 34% year over year.

How it works

BlueRock's approach is to take stem cells — cells that aren't specialized yet — and turn them into a certain cell your body needs but might not make very well on its own.

Scientists have figured out how to do this using induced pluripotent stem cells. The process takes a person's cells (blood, skin) and converts them into stem cells. From there, they can be turned into whichever cells are needed. These cells are allogeneic, which means they can be used off the shelf, rather than requiring a person's own cells to be reprogrammed.

Say you have a heart attack. In the course of it, you lose hundreds of millions of muscle cells that won't be replaced, and instead less flexible scar tissue forms on the heart, which can lead to patients needing a heart transplant.

At first, people thought it could be possible to just add some stem cells and grow some new heart muscle cells to replace the ones that had died. That didn't work, though.

MaRS exterior streetcar

"There was initially a lot of excitement with the heart, that you could squirt, for example, bone-marrow cells, a cell type we thought we understood really well. They would become heart muscle cells. That's essentially been debunked," Michael LaFlamme, a scientist at the University of Toronto and one of BlueRock's founding investigators, said. LaFlamme's lab is based out of MaRS, a Toronto venture program.

Instead, LaFlamme's research team in Toronto is taking a different approach through injecting a billion heart-muscle cells (otherwise known as cardiomyocytes) that have been developed from stem cells. Ideally, this could help keep people from needing heart transplants.

Why BlueRock's starting with heart cells and neurons

While the heart and brain programs might seem like very different places to start, Davis said there is a common theme that unites all the programs BlueRock's going after. Simply, BlueRock's looking to develop treatments that are fully formed cells made from stem cells that can be used right off the shelf.

That means that the stem-cell therapies have to be converted into whatever cell they're meant to be (heart-muscle cells, neurons, and so forth) before going into the body, rather than using different kinds of stem cells to treat the condition. And the cells have to be ones that aren't easily made otherwise.

"We're replacing precise cell types that the body can no longer replace," Davis said. Davis now sits on BlueRock's board, after spending the better part of 2016 helping to build the company.

The company looked at hundreds of programs, Davis said, before landing on the heart and Parkinson's programs to start.

Beyond the two initial programs, BlueRock has others that are brewing that fit these criteria. To make the cut, Davis said, the programs have to answer two key questions: "Can you do it, and do you know it's going to work?" For the first two programs, that meant showing through animal models that it was feasible, as well as showing that the treatments would only require a specific set of cells.

"What's really true is that the field is breaking unevenly," Davis said. "Some cell types can be more readily made given today's understanding of developmental biology and technologies. Some cell types are still difficult to make."

Making personalized, or "autologous" stem-cell treatments, can make the process go a lot faster, since a person's cells don't need to be shipped out, reprogrammed, then reinserted into the body.

It can present its own challenges, though. Since the cells are coming from someone else, the immune system could mount a response to kick out the new cells. Confronting that will be key to getting BlueRock's regenerative-medicine treatments to work.

stem cells

A long way to go

Over the past few decades, researchers have made strides to understand more about stem cells and regeneration. There have been several setbacks, and there's no guarantee this new wave of companies won't fail as well.

BlueRock Therapeutics has a few things working in its favor. On the logistics end, it is easier to manufacture certain stem-cell therapies, which will be key for human trials like the heart-muscle-regeneration program. And there have been developments in cellular therapies to treat cancer, with two treatments aiming for approval by the end of 2017.

There are still a number of not insignificant challenges ahead, Davis said.

"We have to prove out the theory in many ways," he said. That'll take figuring out through clinical trials if the treatments work. For the Parkinson's program, for example, BlueRock will have to determine whether introducing the neurons has an effect on the disease and possibly reverse its effects. The company will also have to work with regulators to get it approved if the data pans out.

Still, researchers and investors are optimistic that now is the time for a breakthrough.

"Things that would have seemed science fiction to me just maybe five to 10 years ago — like getting a billion cells for each heart — now are doable," LaFlamme, the investigator on the heart program, said.

SEE ALSO: Money is pouring in to a hot new area of science that could change the way we think about aging

DON'T MISS A $12 billion startup you've probably never heard wants to cure baldness and smooth out your wrinkles

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South Korean Company Agrees to Pay Hackers $1 Million Bitcoin Ransom to Unlock Its Files

Gizmodo, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A South Korean web hosting company will reportedly shell out about a million dollars to resolve a ransomware crisis at its data center, the highest such payout publicly known to date.


Amazon's rivals 'will do anything' to make the company pay more for Whole Foods (WFM, AMZN)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Whole Foods

Amazon may have to put up a fight for Whole Foods.

Speculation on Wall Street is growing that another bidder could counter Amazon's offer of $13.7 billion, or $42 a share, for the natural and organic grocery chain.

"Many will do anything to either make this acquisition more costly for Amazon, or prevent the asset from landing in Amazon’s lap," Barclays analyst Karen Short wrote in a research note.

Whole Foods' shares closed at $43.22 a share on Monday, about 3% over Amazon's offer price, indicating that investors are rallying around the theory that another bidder is getting ready to pounce. The company's stock was trading around $42.95 on Tuesday morning.

Short identified Walmart, Kroger, and Target as potential bidders and raised her stock price target more than 14% over Amazon's bid to $48 — though she said the company could be sold for as much as $57 a share.

"In theory, all retailers that sell food and compete with Amazon because we think most have too much to lose not to bid," she wrote.

Whole Foods

Oppenheimer analyst Rupesh Parikh seems to agree. He raised his price target for Whole Foods to $45.

"Another bid cannot be ruled out even from a defensive measure to protect against the Amazon threat," he wrote in a research note. 

Whole Foods would owe Amazon a $400 million break-up fee if it breaks the deal for a competing bid.

But a strategic retail bidder, such as Walmart, could achieve up to $600 million in potential cost savings that could make the Whole Foods deal more profitable than it would be to Amazon, according to Short.

The cost savings could come from eliminating redundant positions between the two companies and/or utilizing existing relationships with suppliers to purchase goods at a lower price.

SEE ALSO: America's newest grocery store chain has an advantage that should terrify Walmart

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SOCIETE GENERALE: Here are our 5 Brexit scenarios

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

David Davis

LONDON — With Brexit talks formally starting on Monday, the coming weeks and months are likely to offer the world a glimpse of what Britain's EU exit will finally look like.

Before the general election, it seemed fairly obvious that Prime Minister Theresa May was only considering one type of Brexit — a hard exit including tightly controlled immigration but an exit from the European Single Market.

However, after May's failure to win a majority in the House of Commons — which is set to lead to a minority Conservative government propped up by the DUP — it is possible that there may be a moderating of stance on leaving the EU, with senior figures in the government, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pushing for a less aggressive approach.

According to new research from French lender Societe Generale, hard Brexit remains by far the most likely outcome — with a 70% probability — but there are four other possible scenarios that could play out in the next 18 months of negotiations.

"It is tempting to talk up the chances of a soft Brexit following the humbling of May in the election, but to us a hard Brexit is still much the most likely outcome," SocGen's Brian Hilliard wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

The five possible Brexit scenarios, including the basic hard Brexit, are:

1. Hard Brexit 

In this instance, "the government sticks to the objectives of the Article 50 letter to leave both the Single Market and Customs Union." Citing a paper written in 2014, when Brexit, and even a referendum, was but an idea, SocGen notes that it "estimated that this scenario could result in a loss of GDP growth of over 0.5% p.a. for up to ten years."

There is a 70% chance of this outcome.

2. Soft Brexit

A Soft Brexit would be triggered, the bank argues, if Theresa May's "government takes the election result as a clear message from the electorate that it wants an exit from the EU that achieves the nebulous goal of regaining some lost sovereignty while retaining trading arrangements approximating to full access to the Single Market and participation in the Customs Union."

Societe Generale assigns a 15% probability of soft Brexit.

3. Cliff edge Brexit

Theresa May has consistently argued that "no deal is better than a bad deal" for the UK when it comes to Brexit, and that's exactly what would happen in the cliff edge scenario. Here "negotiations fail to reach agreement and the talks collapse; the UK trades with all nations under WTO rules." A cliff edge has a 10% chance, Hilliard and his team believe.

4. No Brexit

Brexit doesn't mean Brexit, and the government decides that for the good of the nation, Britain should remain in the EU. 

The true awfulness of the consequences of Brexit becomes apparent to the UK government so it ends up recommending to the UK voters, either through a second referendum or another general election, to stop the clock and remain in the EU. And the voters agree," Hilliard and team write, noting that there is just a 4% chance of this happening.

5. "Back to the drawing board"

Even less likely than not leaving the EU — with just a 1% chance — the back to the drawing board approach could occur if Brits voted to leave the EU again in a second referendum.

In that scenario, it would mean "the electorate requires the government to try again to strike a better Brexit deal."

"But if this is close to the two-year deadline, then it might be too late to renegotiate, so it ends up as Scenario #3," Societe Generale's note argues. Hence the tiny probability.

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New York's Financial Regulator Is Now Inspecting Bitcoin Startups

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The NYDFS is now carrying out legislated examinations of digital currency startups licensed in the state, according to an annual report.


A US fintech used by Google and Airbnb is opening a London office to take advantage of Brexit 'opportunity'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Scott Galit Payoneer

LONDON — US fintech company Payoneer, which works with the likes of Google and Airbnb, is opening its first UK office in London to take advantage of the "opportunity" it thinks will be presented by Brexit.

Payoneer's technology helps businesses send and receive money across borders online.

CEO Scott Galit told Business Insider that the New York-headquartered company has been considering opening a London office for a while and was not put off by last year's Brexit vote, which has put Britain on course to leave the EU in 2019. In fact, Brexit could boost business, he said.

Galit said: "The UK is clearly one of the leading global trading hubs in the world... Out of whatever disruption may come, we also think there will be opportunity."

He added that "the UK is filled with entrepreneurs running businesses of a wide range of sizes that will have great opportunities," and said: "There actually are tremendous opportunities to make your mark globally."

The company is already seeing increased interest from UK businesses looking to trade internationally outside of the EU, in the wake of last year's vote.

"Now is a time when small businesses that have been looking more inwardly or looking just across the border into Europe are actually in a position now where they need to start thinking globally," Galit said.

The rise of online international marketplaces such as Amazon and Lazada are making trade with the likes of China and the US easier for small and medium-sized businesses, he added.

Payoneer has two main parts to its business: helping small and medium-sized businesses make overseas payments online; and helping global tech giants like Amazon, Airbnb, and Google, to pay suppliers around the world.

Founded in 2005, the company already has British customers but Galit said the London office is "by far the most significant investment we've made." Six staff will man the office to begin with but there is no upper cap on the number of people who could be hired out of London.

The opening of a UK office comes after Payoneer raised $180 million in growth funding last October. Galit said the new office was part of "a very logical and systematic effort to make sure we have a meaningful presence in every trading hub around the world."

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Qatar Airways is once again the best airline in the world

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Qatar AirwaysQatar Airways has been named Best Airline in the World for 2017 by leading consumer aviation website Skytrax.

The Gulf-based carrier was presented with the honor at Tuesday's World Airline Awards at the 2017 Paris Air Show.

The other carriers to make the Skytrax top 10 include (in no particular order): Singapore, Hainan, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, Garuda Indonesia, and EVA Air.

This is Qatar Airways' fourth win in the last 10 years after securing the top spot in 2011, 2012, and 2015.

The airline reclaimed its crown after finishing second last year to Dubai-based rival Emirates.

Qatar Airways also took home the award for Best Business Class in the World and Best Airline in the Middle East.

The prestigious award is often referred to as the "Oscars of the aviation industry" and is a much needed bright spot during a tumultuous year for Qatar Airways.

The airline has been caught in the middle of a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Middle Eastern neighbors. The dispute has resulted in Qatar Airways' expulsion from major markets in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

These countries have also either severely restricted Qatar Airways' access to or outright banned the airline from their airspace.

In addition, the Doha-based airline has been dealing with the financial fallout from travel and large electronics bans issued by the US and UK governments earlier this year.

Other winners include AirAsia for Best Low-Cost Airline in the World and Etihad for Best First Class in the World.

The Skytrax awards are decided based on independent surveys completed by 19.87 million passengers from 105 different countries around the world.

SEE ALSO: The glorious history of the best plane Boeing has ever built — The 777

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British businesses are unaware new data protection laws could cost them millions in fines

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST


LONDON — Almost two-thirds of British businesses are unaware they could face fines of up to 20million with the introduction of new data protection laws, according to a survey done by YouGov for national law firm Irwin Mitchell. 

The survey asked 2,129 businesses if they had heard about new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, with 62% saying they had not. 

At the moment, UK businesses can be fined up to £500,000 for infringing data protection laws. However, this upper limit is 

However, this upper limit is due to skyrocket to €20million or 4% of a company's global turnover, as of 25th May 2018. The report said it was "striking and concerning" that, although some businesses said they were aware of the upcoming changes, very few were aware of just how high the new fines could be. 

Smaller businesses were least aware and so most at risk of being hit with large fines: only 22% said they had heard of the rules, compared to 43% of medium-sized and 56% of large businesses. 

Other key findings:

  • Only 57% of financial services companies knew about the changes, with media and marketing companies towards the bottom of the list, at 38%. 
  • When asked about the possible impacts of these new fines, almost a fifth of the businesses surveyed said they would go out of business.
  • Almost a quarter said they thought it was unlikely or very unlikely that they would even be aware of a data breach if one occured.

Although the new laws are being enforced from Brussels, Brexit won't exempt British businesses from the changes: "It’s important to understand that Brexit does not mean that GDPR compliance efforts can stop. The government has made it clear that GDPR will be the law in the UK both before and after Brexit," said Daniel Hedley, a partner at Irwin Mitchell.

"Any businesses that have put their compliance efforts on hold following the referendum result should restart them immediately," he said.

There were a record number of fines in the UK for data breaches in 2016: the number of fines almost doubled in 2016 to 35, totaling £3.2million, up from £541,000 in 2011. Both the number and value of fines are predicted to rise after the new rules are implemented in 2018.

The new rules will force businesses to be more transparent about how customer data is collected and stored, and all data breaches will have to be reported to regulator the Information Commissioner's Office within three days.

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Forcing the €900 billion a day clearing business out of London is in 'no one’s economic interest,' Carney argues

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Carney City of London

LONDON — Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on Tuesday warned of the dangers of stripping London of its €900 billion a day clearing business, saying that fragmenting the industry is in "no one’s economic interest."

Speaking in London, Carney argued that forcing the relocation of euro-focused clearing activities away from London "would reduce the benefits of central clearing" as would mandating that any global clearing markets are split by currency or jurisdiction.

"Fragmentation of such global markets by jurisdiction or currency would reduce the benefits of central clearing. EU27 firms account for only a quarter of global activity in cleared euro interest rate swaps, and about 14% of total interest rate swaps in all currencies cleared by LCH," he told audience of his rescheduled speech at the Mansion House.

"Any development which prevented EU27 firms from continuing to clear trades in the UK would split liquidity between a less liquid onshore market for EU firms and a more liquid offshore market for everyone else."

Clearing houses such as LCH and ICE Clear Europe in London manage credit risk, acting as a middle-man in swaps and derivatives trades to guarantee the contract in the event that one of the parties involved in the trade goes bust.

Eurozone officials have long sought to bring the clearing activities currently housed in the UK onto continental Europe, failing in a legal battle in 2015. However, the Brexit vote last summer has brought renewed impetus to these claims, with the argument that euro-based derivatives should be cleared in the European Union, not outside, as would be the case if the business remains in London post-Brexit.

Last week, for instance, the EU proposed new powers for the European Central Bank and market regulators to force them to relocate to Europe if they are deemed to be so important that their collapse would cause the rest of the financial system to fail.

"The continued safety and stability of our financial system remains a key priority. As we face the departure of the largest EU financial centre, we need to make certain adjustments to our rules to ensure that our efforts remain on track," Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU's financial services commissioner, said in a statement announcing the bill.

Senior UK officials and those involved with clearing in Britain have strongly defended their position and the country's role in clearing, saying that it is both efficient and cost effective to allow clearing to remain in the UK.

For example, earlier this year Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange warned that moving the business out of London could cost investors up to €100 billion in the long run.

"London clears 18 major currencies and these multi-currency netting efficiencies meant LCH saved its customers $21 billion in capital last year. Strip out euro clearing and you lose these efficiencies, potentially increasing cumulative trading costs by €100 billion over five years," he wrote in the Times.

Patrick Young, head of capital markets advisory firm DV Advisors and a former derivatives broker, also defended the practice recently.

"The situation we have is very simply, it cannot work, it will not work [moving clearing out of London]," he told the Prosperity UK Conference at London's County Hall in April.

In the same speech, which was postponed last Thursday after the City of London Corporation cancelled the Mansion House dinner out of respect for the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Carney made clear that he does not support an interest rate hike any time soon.

"From my perspective, given the mixed signals on consumer spending and business investment, and given the still subdued domestic inflationary pressures, in particular anaemic wage growth, now is not yet the time to begin that adjustment [raising rates]."

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Cars made in the UK are becoming more British in anticipation of Brexit

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

queen car

LONDON — Cars assembled in the UK feature more domestically-made components compared to two-years ago, highlighting a move by manufacturers to protect themselves from Brexit related disruptions to their supply chain.

A report by Automotive Council UK found that 44% of all components used in UK vehicle assembly come from Britsh suppliers, compared with 41% in 2015.

This is up from 36% in 2011, with turnover in the UK auto parts industry increasing from £9 billion that year to more than £12 billion in this year.

"Operating on a ‘just in time’ delivery basis, sourcing from UK suppliers reduces time and cost of supply chains, reducing the risk of delays which can halt production," the report said.

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said the report "shows that we are still making good progress in increasing the UK content of the vehicles we produce. It also highlights that there are many more opportunities for us to exploit."

The UK's exit from the European Union, along with its single market and customs union, has the potential to disrupt the international supply chains relied on by manufacturers of complex equipment such as vehicles. Companies both in Europe and in the UK are starting to protect themselves from fallout if the talks do not yield a special trade deal by the time Britain leaves the bloc in 2019. 

Around 45% of European companies are seeking to replace UK suppliers with local businesses in preparation for higher international tariffs if Brexit negotiations fail.

Meanwhile, a third of UK businesses are actively looking to replace European suppliers, according to a survey of 2,111 supply chain managers carried out by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply earlier this year.

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The pound dives after Carney pours water on the prospect of a rate hike

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sterling dropped to a one week low on Tuesday morning after Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said that interests rates should not be raised any time soon.

Carney said borrowing costs should not go up before there is a clear picture of how the Brexit talks will play out during a speech made at London's Mansion House. 

The pound dropped 0.44% to $1.2682, a one week low, as of 09:25 a.m. BST (04:02 EST).

pound drop carney

"Given the mixed signals on consumer spending and business investment, and given the still subdued domestic inflationary pressures, in particular anaemic wage growth, now is not yet the time to begin that adjustment," said Carney.

"In the coming months, I would like to see the extent to which weaker consumption growth is offset by other components of demand, whether wages begin to firm, and more generally, how the economy reacts to the prospect of tighter financial conditions and the reality of Brexit negotiations," he said.

Carney's comments come after three members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee last week voted to increase rates, shocking investors who had expected just one member, the outgoing Kristin Forbes, to back tightening policy.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, spoke alongside Carney, noting that Brexit negotiations should include a transitionary period in which the UK will be outside the customs union but will still abide by customs union rules. 

The speeches weree originally scheduled for last Thursday, but the City of London corporation cancelled the event following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

"Investors today will focus on what BoE’s Mark Carney has to say after three MPC policymakers voted to raise interest rates last week, " said Hussein Sayed, chief strategist at FXTM. "Rising prices and falling wages is one of the biggest challenges a central bank can face, and investors need more clarity on what tools are available to tackle these problems," he said.

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'We are not turning inwards': Britain's Chancellor undermines Theresa May's 'Hard Brexit' vision in speech to the City

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Philip Hammond

LONDON — Chancellor Philip Hammond on Tuesday made the case for a "soft Brexit" in a speech to City grandees, undermining Prime Minister Theresa May's repeated calls for a "hard Brexit."

The Prime Minister has prioritised gaining control of immigration as part of Britain's negotiated exit of the EU. This would involve ending freedom of movement, which EU officials have said would force them to withdraw Britain's membership of the single market.

This path has been dubbed a "hard Brexit," as Britain would sever all links with the EU and then start from scratch. Trade would likely be severely disrupted.

At the annual Mansion House event in the City of London on Tuesday, Hammond effectively attacked this path, calling for "a deep and special future partnership with our EU neighbours" that would involve continued trade and immigration.

The Chancellor told assembled bankers and businessmen that Britain must remain "open to the talent, the ideas and the capital that have driven the success of our economy in the past, and will drive it in the future," after Brexit.

Hammond said (emphasis ours):

"The future of our economy is inexorably linked to the kind of Brexit deal that we reach with the EU. And I am confident we can do a Brexit deal that puts jobs and prosperity first; that reassures employers that they will still be able to access the talent they need; that keeps our markets for goods and services and capital open; that achieves early agreement on transitional arrangement so that trade can carry on flowing smoothly and businesses up and down the country can move on with investment decisions that they want to make but that have been on hold since the Referendum."

TheCityUK, the lobbying group for financial and professional services in Britain, cheered the Chancellor's message of a softer Brexit. CEO Miles Celic said in a statement after the speech: "The Chancellor was very clear that when we leave the EU, we need a bespoke trade deal which covers goods but also the service industry on which the UK economy overwhelmingly depends. We want such a deal to be based on mutual market access based on mutual recognition and regulatory cooperation.

Celic added: "We are pleased to hear Philip Hammond recognise the importance of continued access to global talent. Our industry's global competitive advantage is buoyed by our ability to attract and retain the brightest and the best talent from across the world."

It is the second time in the last week that a newly emboldened Hammond has publicly pushed for a softer Brexit. The Chancellor told Andrew Marr on Sunday that no Brexit deal would be "very, very bad." Theresa May had previously said that "no deal would be better than a bad deal" for Britain in Brexit negotiations.

Hammond was set to be axed as Chancellor by Theresa May after the election but her weakened position has meant he has stayed on.

'We seek to manage migration, not shut it down'

Hammond on Tuesday also suggested that austerity could be slackened by the Conservatives in future, saying: "Britain is weary after seven years of hard slog repairing the damage of the great recession."

philip hammond theresa mayBut he warned that austerity could only truly be ended by higher growth, higher borrowing, or higher taxes.

Stronger economic growth is "the only sustainable way," the Chancellor said, and to achieve this Britain would have to undertake "more trade, not less," post-Brexit, including "maintaining strong trade links with European markets."

The Chancellor said Britain must "push for a new phase of globalisation, to ensure that it delivers clear benefits for ordinary working people in developed economies."

"We are not about to turn inward," he said. "But we do want to ensure that the arrangements we have in place work for our economy... So, while we seek to manage migration, we do not seek to shut it down."

Hammond stressed that Britain must secure a good trade deal for financial services post-Brexit, chiding EU counterparts for "protectionist agendas being advanced, disguised as arguments about regulatory competence, financial stability, and supervisory oversight."

EU leaders, particularly in France, have been pushing for euro clearing to be relocated to an EU nation post-Brexit. This would strip the City of London of a €930 billion-a-day in trade.

Investment boost

The Chancellor used Tuesday's Mansion House to announce a boost to investment, saying the government will not let businesses suffer from the withdrawal of the European Investment Bank post-Brexit. The EIB invested €6.9 billion in the UK last year and was the fifth largest recipient of loans.

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons, London.To counter the possible loss of this funding, Hammond announced that the government will offer construction guarantees for the first time and raised the limit the British Business Bank can invest in venture capital funds from 33% to 50% to boost "innovation in our economy."

Some of the £400 million of investment announced in last year's Autumn Statement will also be brought forward, Hammond said without specifying what parts exactly.

The Chancellor said he is also in discussions with the European Investment Bank about its future relationship to Britain and said: "In the long-term, it may be mutually beneficial to maintain a relationship between the UK and the EIB after we leave the EU."

The funding boost is "because investment is crucial for the economic future of this country, and we will not let Brexit uncertainty slow us down," the Chancellor said.

Britain's GDP grew by just 0.3% in the first quarter, undershooting expectations of 0.4% and suggesting that the Brexit-driven slowdown that many economists predicted last year could be arriving.

Hammond said: "I have said before, and I remain clear today, that when the British people voted last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure. They did vote to leave the EU. And we will leave the EU.

"But it must be done in a way that works for Britain. In a way that prioritises British jobs, and underpins Britain’s prosperity. Anything less will be a failure to deliver on the instructions of the British people."

Speaking at the same Mansion House event after Hammond, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said that now is not the time to raise interest rates.

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CARNEY: Now is not the time to raise rates

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Mark Carney

LONDON — Bank of England Governor Mark Carney does not believe that it is time for Britain's central bank to raise interest rates, despite inflation climbing sharply above target in recent months.

Speaking at London's Mansion House on Tuesday morning, the governor said that he believes the sclerotic wage growth and dwindling consumer spending currently impacting the British economy provide reasons to avoid hiking interest rates, as some of the bank's most senior officials believe.

"From my perspective, given the mixed signals on consumer spending and business investment, and given the still subdued domestic inflationary pressures, in particular anaemic wage growth, now is not yet the time to begin that adjustment," Carney told a gathering of the UK's most prominent financiers in the speech.

"In the coming months, I would like to see the extent to which weaker consumption growth is offset by other components of demand, whether wages begin to firm, and more generally, how the economy reacts to the prospect of tighter financial conditions and the reality of Brexit negotiations."

Alongside the more standard concerns about the economy like wage growth and consumer spending, Carney cited worries about Brexit, and particularly how Brexit impacts household sentiment, as a reason for his belief that rates should stay on hold for the time being.

"During the negotiating period the economy will be importantly influenced by the expectations of households, firms and financial markets about the nature of both the transition and the longer term economic relationships with the EU and other countries," he said.

"Markets have already anticipated some of the adjustment. Depending on whether and when any transition arrangement can be agreed, firms on either side of the channel may soon need to activate contingency plans.

"Before long, we will all begin to find out the extent to which Brexit is a gentle stroll along a smooth path to a land of cake and consumption," Carney added.

Carney's speech comes just four days after the bank's eight member Monetary Policy Committee (it is usually made up of nine people, but has stood at eight since the resignation of Charlotte Hogg in March) voted 5-3 in favour of holding rates, with three MPC members backing a hike in the bank's base rate.

That was the highest number of members to back a hike for some time and was just one member away from a split vote, a situation that hasn't occurred since 1998.

Those members who did back a hike cited concerns about inflation overshooting its government mandated target of 2% substantially in recent months as their reason for backing a hike, looking beyond the weaker wage growth and consumer spending cited by Carney in Tuesday's speech.

Falling sterling has pushed up the price of importing goods, passing through to everyday items that regular Brits buy. This is now showing up in official inflation data, which at the latest reading sat at 2.9%.

Carney himself, whose vote, it should be noted, has the exact same weight in setting policy as any other member of the MPC, does not believe that spiking inflation will be sustained, especially once the value of sterling begins to recover.

The speech was originally intended to be delivered at the annual Mansion House dinner — one of the biggest events on the social calendar of the British financial industry — last Thursday, but the dinner was cancelled as a mark of respect following the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier in the week. As a result, Carney and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivered their planned speeches on Tuesday morning instead.

During his speech, Hammond made the case for a "soft Brexit" undermining Prime Minister Theresa May's repeated calls for a "hard Brexit."

At the annual Mansion House event in the City of London on Tuesday, Hammond effectively attacked this path, calling for "a deep and special future partnership with our EU neighbours" that would involve continued trade and immigration.

The pound dropped sharply on Carney's comments, losing close to 0.5% against the dollar, as the chart below illustrates:

pound drop carney

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Barclays' share price shrugs off Serious Fraud Office charges

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

LONDON — Shares in Barclays opened only slightly lower on Tuesday after the UK's Serious Fraud Office announced criminal charges against the bank and four former executives.

Former Barclays CEO John Varley is among those facing charges relating to the bank's private bailout from Qatar at the height of the financial crisis. Qatari investors backed the bank's £4.5 billion cash call in 2008 but were also given a $3 billion loan facility by the bank at the same time, an arrangement that the SFO contends is unlawful.

The bank and four former execs are charged with "conspiracy to commit fraud and the provision of unlawful financial assistance." It's the first time a bank or its executives have faced criminal charges for events that took place during the 2008 financial crisis.

Despite this, Barclays shares opened down just 0.27% in London on Tuesday in reaction to the news, hitting 205.55p.barcWhile news of the SFO charges is bad for Barclays, it is not unexpected. Reports that the SFO was set to deliver its verdict were trailed over the last week, with sources at the bank telling the Telegraph on Monday that they expected charges to be brought.

Barclays said in a statement that it is "is considering its position in relation to these developments."

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Goldman Sachs' new online lending business has already hit a $1 billion milestone (GS)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

marcus goldman sachs

Goldman Sachs launched Marcus, an online lending business for customers seeking loans of $30,000 or less, in October 2016.

It was a departure from what Goldman Sachs is best known for, namely, wealth management, trading, and investment banking.

And the business has already hit a $1 billion milestone, according to Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein.

Blankfein said in an interview on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” that "we just crossed over a billion dollars."

"By the end of this year, we'll be crossed two billion dollars," he added. "We wanted to grow it slow to make sure we were doing a good job. But we're going to grow, you know, we're going to grow this thing."

He added that Goldman Sachs could charge three to five percentage points less than the typical interest rates on credit card balances, and still "make a great return on this."

"Most people get charged interest of 17, 18, 19, 20% or more on their credit card balances," he said. "When we do something through Marcus, again, we don't have a lot of stores or branch offices. We do things digitally. No fees. Get information online. And loans are made fairly quickly."

The impact of Marcus extends beyond the financials. According to Marcus' first employee, some of its culture is starting to rub off on the rest of the firm's divisions.

Omer Ismail, the chief operating officer of Marcus by Goldman Sachs, described the online lending business as "more casual" in an interview on the Lend Academy Podcast.

"You know, our chief architect has a nose ring, people wear jeans so there are definitely aspects that look different relative to folks that work in the investment banking division," said Ismail.

"We write on everything, we write on our walls, we write on our tables, we write on our windows, again, that's very new."

Ismail believes that some of that more relaxed, creative culture is beginning to find its way into other parts of Goldman Sachs.

"I was with the chief technology officer of Goldman and I went down to his office a couple of days ago and I noticed that now he has white walls so it's actually really cool to see how folks at Marcus are actually influencing other parts of Goldman."

Even some more traditional team-building practices are being incorporated by other divisions of Goldman Sachs.

"We have a weekly huddle where the entire Marcus team gets together and talks about a particular topic for the week," said Ismail. "I was in a meeting last week with the head of our HCM, Human Capital Management, our HR area and Edith Cooper who heads up HCM was telling me that she started having weekly huddles."

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Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein explained why he started antagonizing Trump on Twitter (GS)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Lloyd Blankfein

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein started tweeting this month, and it's fair to say he jumped right in. 

In his first tweet, the Wall Street CEO, using the handle @lloydblankfein, lamented President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

In his third tweet, coming the day after Trump kicked off his "infrastructure week," he raved about the impressive infrastructure in one of the US's rival superpowers — China. 

His fourth sarcastically asked how "infrastructure week" had gone, after former FBI Director James Comey delivered a Senate testimony that overshadowed any of Trump's legislative proposals that week.

In an interview on CNBC's "Mad Money with Jim Cramer," Blankfein was asked why he started tweeting. He said:

  • "In the financial crisis there was no – nobody knew anything about what Goldman Sachs did."
  • "And I said, 'If this ever happens again, I'm not going to allow there to be a vacuum about what we're like. I'm going to go – we're going to have to communicate to the world more of what we do.' Which we've done institutionally, but also, there's a personal element to it too."
  • "And the reason why I do it, it has to fall in my mind, in one of a couple of categories. Either it's something that is kind of in our wheelhouse of expertise, like for – so I comment that it would be very, very bad to let US government default."
  • "Before Twitter, I did those things by press release. The other thing I'll comment on is when things really affect the ability of our people to be who they are and to do their job and to be effective as professionals. And that's got the LGBT, the immigrant ban, so that people couldn't move around with their spouses when they have had a passport for another country. So I commented on those issues because, really, I kind of have to be the champion of our people. And I owe it, I kind of owe it to the body politic to comment where I have expertise. They could take my advice or not. I don't make decisions. But I do give them our expertise."

Here's the full transcript:

JIM CRAMER: We're back with Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Lloyd, you’re tweeting. What is that all about?

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: You know, I agree. It's not – for an institutional kind of firm like us, it's not that usual. But I tell you, part of it – you asked me about the financial crisis before. In the financial crisis there was no – nobody knew anything about what Goldman Sachs did.


LLOYD BLANKFEIN: What, you know, the value we create, what we do in the communities. Also, the importance we do in raising capital for people who need capital, helping them create business, hire people, the virtuous circle of employed people buying more – you know, it's quite virtuous as we know it. And I said, "If this ever happens again, I'm not going to allow there to be a vacuum about what we're like. I'm going to go – we're going to have to communicate to the world more of what we do." Which we've done institutionally, but also, there's a personal element to it too. And although the financial crisis, you know, receded a while ago, we kind of never picked up on it. And I just thought—

JIM CRAMER: Three outta six of these, Lloyd, are, I would say, antagonistic to the president.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: Well, I'd say they're comments. Now, I've always commented on certain issues. And this is how I think of it: I don't use that platform for Lloyd Blankfein's personal point of view, because I know I'm interesting to people because my role at Goldman. Now, my role at Goldman, so I – to communicate, and I've done it before by press release you recall – I commented on immigration, I commented on LGBT issues. I commented, obviously on the environment more recently. Spending on infrastructure. And the reason why I do it, it has to fall in my mind, in one of a couple of categories. Either it's something that is kind of in our wheelhouse of expertise, like for – so I comment that it would be very, very bad to let U.S. government default.


LLOYD BLANKFEIN: That's in our wheelhouse. Before Twitter, I did those things by press release. The other thing I'll comment on is when things really affect the ability of our people to be who they are and to do their job and to be effective as professionals. And that's got the LGBT, the immigrant ban, so that people couldn't move around with their spouses when they have had a passport for another country. So I commented on those issues because, really, I kind of have to be the champion of our people. And I owe it, I kind of owe it to the body politic to comment where I have expertise. They could take my advice or not. I don't make decisions. But I do give them our expertise.

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WHOLE FOODS CEO: We focused on employees at the 'expense of our customers' (WFM)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Whole Foods

Over the years, critics of Whole Foods sardonically coined the nickname "Whole Paycheck," highlighting the steep prices of its high-end, organic fare. 

In the wake of the company's merger with Amazon, it seems Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is ready to improve its relationship with customers. 

In a town hall meeting last Friday, the day it was announced that Amazon had bought the organic grocer for $13.7 billion, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey acknowledged that his company had prioritized employees at the expense of customers — a trend that he says will change after the merger.

In response to a question about how Whole Foods' relationship with various stakeholders would change following the marriage to Amazon, Mackey said that the company would evolve to match Amazon's relentless focus on customers.

Here's Mackey (emphasis ours):

"One of the things they do better than us, they are more customer-centric than we are. They really are. And one of my takeaways is that, by God, we’re gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon. We’re gonna— we’re gonna— we’re gonna import their passion about that. 

"Because I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team member focus at the expense of our customers. And that’s one definite evolution that’s gonna happen. I love the passion these guys have around the customer. They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And— we— we’re gonna be the same way.

"We’re— we’re— we’re— we do care about our customers. So don’t misunderstand me. I just feel like there’s an opportunity for us to learn from them and do— and do even better. But th— they care about their team— their team members, their suppliers, their investors. I mean, by every— by every objective measurement, they’re, like, top of the class in every single way. They are a tremendous company that— has so much to teach us. And I’m, for one, gonna be an eager— eager pupil."

Mackey isn't saying its nearly 90,000 employees are about to take a hit, but he's been very frank that there will be changes. He said at the town hall that they had hired Boston Consulting Group to help Whole Foods trim $300 million in costs. 

"I don’t want people goin’ away, thinkin’ that nothin’s gonna change around here. ‘Cause things are gonna change. There’s just no question about that," Mackey said. 

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Britain making people over 55-years-old to work longer could boost the economy by £80 billion

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Elderly with teen

More must be done to encourage people over the age of 55, and women in particular, to keep working longer in order to boost the economy.

That is according to PwC's latest "Golden Age Index" report, published on Tuesday, which ranked countries that were best at "harnessing the economic power of older workers."

The UK ranks 19th out of 34 OECD countries in PwC's analysis, a drop of one place since last year and below the overall average.

The UK's employment rate for 50 to 64-year-olds is currently 70%, with England faring best at 70.6% and Northern Ireland worst at 63.6%. Regional differences are attributed to economic performance, educational attainment and gender divides.

The gender pay gap has also been shown to grow dramatically as age increases, a significant barrier to older women staying in work.

"As the number of people over 55 continues to grow steadily and life expectancy increases, the UK needs to make it as easy as possible for people to continue working for longer if they wish to do so. This would boost both GDP and tax revenues, so helping to pay for the increased health, social care and pension costs of an ageing population," said John Hawksworth, PwC's chief economist.

The average age in the UK exceeded 40 for the first time ever in 2014, and it is predicted that nearly one in seven will be over 75 by 2040. Andy Briggs, the government’s business champion for older workers, called in February this year for the number of workers aged between 50-70 to increase by one million over the next five years.

The International Monetary Fund has also estimated there will be a significant drop in productivity growth in the Euro Area in the medium- to long-term, as the number of retired citizens grows and the average age of workers increases.

Analysts predict that the UK could increase its GDP by roughly 4.2% (about £80 billion by current values) if the employment rate of older workers increased 12 percentage points to match Sweden's, which sits in fourth place. 

The gender gap

Significantly more men (75.4%) aged between 50-64 are employed, compared with women (64.9%). According to PwC, older women disproportionately suffer bars to sustainable employment such as lower pay and more part-time work.

Indeed, the gender pay gap increases from an average of £28 per week for 22-29 year olds to £153 for 50-59 year olds. Meanwhile, regions with more highly educated workers tend to have higher older-worker employment rates. 

"For employers, flexible working and partial retirement options can pay dividends, as can redesign of the workplace to meet the needs of older workers," said Carol Stubbings, global people and organisation leader at PwC.

"Flexible working policies can incentivise women to remain in work longer, so having the right policies in place will increase the employment rate of those over 55 and may help to reduce the gender pay gap which is shown to increase with age," she said.

Hawksworth agrees that the government should offer more support for older people to ensure more stay in employment, such as reforming the pension systems, financially incentivising later retirement and providing training for older workers, particularly in technology.

Iceland has consistently topped PwC's Golden Age Index since 2003, with New Zealand ranking in second place and Israel in third in the latest report. Turkey comes last, having slipped 12 places since 2003. If all OECD countries currently below rose to match Sweden's level, gains to GDP could be as large as $2 trillion overall, according to the analysis, and could rise as high as 16% of GDP for Greece and 13% for Belgium. 

Screen Shot 2017 06 16 at 14.36.42

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