12 10 2018

New white paper published on the rise of European private capital markets
Veneziano & Partners has published a white paper on the Rise of European Private Capital Markets

The white-paper intends to discuss the blossoming of European private capital markets and the consequences that the recent proposals of the European Commission on pre-marketing will have in respect of the dynamics of fundraising in Europe. This white-paper analyses in detail the implications of the proposed regulation on both the operational and legal elements involved in fundraising activities in Europe compared to the US markets. 







London, UK 11th October 2018 – Veneziano & Partners today published a white paper entitled The Rise of European Private Capital Markets”.


The white-paper analyses the main elements, both operational and legal, involved in fundraising in European private capital markets and what US fund managers should pay attention to when considering fundraising in Europe.

European private capital markets have experienced a significant surge in the past years. Part of this phenomenon is linked to the progressive retrenchment of banks in certain parts of Europe. In fact, Basel III and the 2013 Capital Requirement Directive played a pivotal role in this process, by representing a real disincentive for banks to take part in the financing of small and medium enterprises, at least for the first years of the implementation of the new regulation. Whilst there were a few exceptions in certain European domiciles, by and large that was the case across Europe. 

However, the changed regulatory scenario would not have alone determined the success for private capital markets had the increasing constraints in the lending activities of banks not been coupled with the innovative mentality of the financial industry, ready to seize the opportunities represented by the new banking regulation and the space left available.

"We must note," says Attilio Veneziano, founder of Veneziano & Partners, "that the process of fundraising as a whole has different operational and legal aspects and US fund managers interested in European private capital markets are the ones who will have to adjust the most to the changes prompted by both the new and proposed regulation in Europe. At different levels, we have already noticed that the regulation in the old world is reshaping the environment for financial services in a way that becomes harder and harder to reconcile with the practices and approaches of the new world."

The white paper can be downloaded at: http://www.venezianoandpartners.co.uk/privatecapitalmarkets/



About Veneziano & Partners

Veneziano & Partners is an international consulting boutique specialising in the European regulation of cross-border fund distribution. In catering to a selected group of investment managers, hedge fund managers and financial institutions worldwide, the firm offers a custom-made global fund registration service, enabling its clients to gain a competitive advantage in an ever increasingly regulated environment.


22 09 2018

Making Water-Smart Energy Choices
Just as the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere contributes to climate change...

Just as the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere contributes to climate change, so does the degradation and depletion of water resources. If the world does not adopt a more holistic approach that recognizes this reality, it will be impossible to save the planet.

NEW DELHI – Climate change undoubtedly poses a potent – even existential – threat to the planet. But the current approach to mitigating it, which reflects a single-minded focus on cutting carbon dioxide emissions, may end up doing serious harm, as it fails to account for the energy sector’s depletion of water resources – another major contributor to climate change.

“Water is at the heart of both the causes and effects of climate change,” a National Research Council report declares. And, indeed, the water cycle – the processes of precipitation, evaporation, freezing, melting, and condensation that circulate water from clouds to land to the ocean and back – is inextricably linked to the energy exchanges among the land, ocean, and atmosphere that determine Earth’s climate. Just as the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere contributes to climate change, so does the degradation and depletion of water resources. And these processes are mutually reinforcing, with each propelling and intensifying the other.

Energy extraction, processing (including refining), and production is highly water-intensive. The energy sector is the largest consumer of water in every developed country except Australia, where, like in most developing countries, agriculture comes out on top. In the European Union, electricity-generating plants alone account for 44% of all freshwater consumed each year; in the United States, that figure is 41%.

The more stressed water resources become, the more energy the water sector demands, as groundwater must be pumped from greater depths, and surface water must be transported across longer distances. In India, for example, energy now comprises about 90% of the cost of groundwater.

As these processes fuel climate variability, they reduce water availability and boost energy demand even further, producing a vicious cycle that will be hard to break. In fact, meeting higher electricity demand and achieving national targets for production of biofuels and other alternative fuels would require a more than twofold increase in global water use for energy production over the next quarter-century.

The only way to break this cycle – and thus to mitigate climate change effectively – is to manage the nexus between water and energy (as well as food, production of which depends on water and energy). In other words, countries must make energy choices that are not only less carbon-intensive, but also less water-intensive.

With global water supplies already strained, the shift to a water-smart approach to energy could not be more urgent. Two-thirds of the world’s people – especially in Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa – confront serious water shortages. Asia – the biggest driver of increased global energy demand – is also the world’s driest continent, measured by water availability per capita.

In these water-stressed regions, shortages have already begun to constrain the expansion of energy infrastructure. One important reason why China has failed to develop its shale hydrocarbon industry is inadequate water in the areas where its deposits are located. (To extract energy from shale, millions of gallons of water must be shot into it.)

Increasing water stress has also driven up costs for existing power-generation projects, possibly jeopardizing their viability. Australia’s Millennium drought, which lasted from the late 1990s until 2012, undermined energy production, causing prices to rise.

With energy shortages usually most severe in water-stressed areas, what are affected countries to do? For starters, they must recognize that energy that is “clean” in terms of carbon can be “dirty” from a water-resource perspective. For example, “clean” coal involving carbon capture and sequestration ranks, along with nuclear power, at the top of the water-intensity chart.

Some renewables, such as solar thermal power and geothermal energy, are also notoriously water-intensive. By contrast, solar photovoltaic and wind power – two renewable technologies gaining traction globally – require no water for their normal operations. Encouraging the development of such sources should thus be a high priority.

But the type of energy that is used is not the only issue. It is also important to select the right types of plants at the planning stage. Alternative cooling technologies for power generation, including dry or hybrid cooling, can reduce water consumption (though the use of such technologies currently is constrained by efficiency losses and higher costs).

Power plants should also be located in places where they will rely not on freshwater resources, but instead on saline, brackish, degraded, or reclaimed water. In Asia, which now leads the world in terms of adding nuclear power capacity, most new plants are located along coastlines, so that these thirsty facilities can draw more on seawater.
Yet here, too, there are serious risks. Rising sea levels, as a result of climate change, could pose a much more potent threat than natural disasters, such as the tsunami that caused the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe in Japan.

Moreover, with coastal areas often densely populated and economically valuable, finding suitable seaside sites for new nuclear plants is no longer easy. Despite having more than 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) of coastline, India has struggled to implement its planned expansion of nuclear power through seaside plants, owing to strong grassroots opposition.

True energy security is possible only in the context of resource, climate, and environmental sustainability. The global focus solely on carbon reduction not only obscures these critical linkages, but also encourages measures that adversely impact resource stability. It is time to adopt a more comprehensive, integrated, and long-term approach to the management and planning of energy, water, and other resources, with a view toward broader environmental protection. Otherwise, we will fail to meet the sustainable-development challenges we face, with devastating consequences, beginning with the world’s most water-stressed regions.


22 09 2018

The Global Economy’s Uncertain Future
Expectations for Growth hinge on Political Relations

At this time last year, the global economy was experiencing strong, widespread growth, with even the long-stagnant European Union staging a robust recovery. But with key indicators of trade and investment now weakening, a new crisis – not least a global trade war – could quickly bring the global upturn to a halt.



LONDON – At the start of 2018, most of the world economy was experiencing a synchronized cyclical recovery that seemed to herald a longer period of sustainable growth and an end to the decade-long hangover from the 2008 slump. Despite the shock of Brexit, storm clouds over the Middle East and Korean Peninsula, and US President Donald Trump’s unpredictable behavior, rising investment and wages, alongside falling rates of unemployment, appeared to be in the offing.



Yet, as I warned in January, “the global mood [had] shifted from fear about political risks to obliviousness, even though many such risks still loom large.” Moreover, while my preferred global indicators were all looking up, I worried about whether that would continue after the first half of 2018, given foreseeable complications such as monetary-policy tightening across advanced economies, especially in the United States.



Lo and behold, we are now halfway through 2018, and some of those same indicators are no longer looking quite so rosy. While the US Institute for Supply Management’s June Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) remains very strong, other comparable surveys around the world are not nearly as robust as they were six months ago. Most important, business activity has slowed in both China and Europe.



Another key indicator is South Korea’s trade data, which is published monthly and before that of any other country. On July 1, we learned that South Korean exports had fallen year-on-year in June 2018. Whereas 2017 was a record-setting year for the country’s nominal export strength, 2018 has ushered in several months of decelerating performance. Ironically, this slump coincides with improved relations with North Korea, while the strong performance last year occurred in spite of nuclear brinkmanship on the Korean Peninsula.



The weakening of South Korean exports calls for careful follow-up analysis, both of other major economies’ trade data and of South Korea’s July data, when it is published on August 1. Given the worrying escalation of Trump’s import tariffs and the retaliatory measures being pursued by China, the European Union, and others, one should not be surprised if the weakening of global trade persists.



That said, one also should not assume that falling trade numbers are a direct result of tariffs. We do not yet have a full regional breakdown of export performance. But from the data that are available for the first 20 days of June, we can see that South Korean exports to the US and China were actually rather strong; the weakness was in exports to Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries and the Middle East. If this remains the case, there is less reason to worry that the strong global-trade performance over the past 12-18 months is being thrown into reverse.



After all, we are in a decade in which the world economy is dominated by activity in the US and China. According to my calculations, 85% of the growth of nominal GDP worldwide since 2010 is due to these two countries, with the US accounting for 35% and China accounting for 50%. So, as long as China and the US are doing fine, the global economy can be expected to sustain annual output growth of around 3.4 percent.



As for the rest of the world, economic indicators from this time last year through early 2018 seemed to suggest that many previously weak performers were finally on the mend. In nominal dollar terms, Brazil, the EU, Japan, and Russia all experienced slight declines since 2010, but showed signs of improvement in 2017.



For example, at this time last year, the EU looked as though it was on the cusp of a robust, widespread cyclical recovery. But that no longer seems to be the case. Key economies such as France and Germany have experienced a slowdown, perhaps owing to fears of a global trade war. And, of course, the plodding Brexit negotiations, Italy’s new anti-establishment government, and an intra-EU political crisis over immigration have all created more economic uncertainty. The immigration crisis, in particular, could have severe consequences both for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and for EU cohesion.



To be sure, Europe’s economic softening could prove temporary, and PMIs for eurozone countries did strengthen somewhat in June, following a couple of months of marked decline. But it would be foolhardy to rule out the worst.



Still, as we have seen, the sustainability of global growth depends largely on the US and China. Obviously, if these two economic giants are going to start trading blows with tit-for-tat tariffs, both will lose – and so will the world economy. For the US, where consumption accounts for around 70% of GDP, positive international trade and a stable, friendly investment climate are essential for sustainable growth. One hopes that someone close to Trump can turn him around before his policies derail the world’s long-awaited recovery.


22 09 2018

Engineering a More Responsible Digital Future
Economic revolutions often bring profound social change...

Economic revolutions often bring profound social change, affecting everything from jobs to family size. With the digital revolution now in full swing, humanity must recommit to building more ethical machines, or face a future in which our technologies undermine basic values like human rights and civil liberties.



ZURICH – The world is being battered by technological disruption, as innovations such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things, blockchain, 3D printing, and virtual reality change how societies and economies work. Individually, each of these technologies has the potential to transform established products, services, and associated support networks. Taken together, they will upend old business models and institutions, heralding a new era of economic, social, and political history. How will we respond?



Major economic transformations typically produce far-reaching change. During the first Industrial Revolution, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, new manufacturing processes eventually led to huge improvements in human wellbeing. As productivity increased, salaries and living standards rose. But, early in the process, mechanization brought negative consequences, like unemployment, child labor, and environmental degradation.



The social and political impact of the digital revolution could be even more dramatic. Wars and revolutions may erupt, and values like human rights and civil liberties could be undermined. As my colleagues and I noted in a recent article in Scientific American, the more computers know about us, “the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others” – as long as informational self-determination is impossible.



Fortunately, the loss of individual autonomy is not inevitable. It is possible to engineer a more responsible digital future. But we must start doing so immediately. Success requires public discourse, digital enlightenment and emancipation, and broader awareness of technology’s risks. In other words, the transition we are facing is bigger than any one country or organization can manage alone. We all have something at stake: our future.



There are obvious dangers in letting technological progress alone drive this change. In 2008, Wired editor Chris Anderson suggested that big data would eventually reveal all truth, without requiring science or theory. Clearly, that hasn’t happened. With more data at their disposal, scientists find more patterns to study; it takes science to judge which are meaningful and which are misleading. The expectation that AI would overcome human weaknesses such as bias has also fallen short. Today, many AI systems discriminate against people, and can even be manipulated.




Other predictions of the new “digital society” were equally off-base. So-called smart cities – in which urban life is automated – have so far failed to live up to expectations. That’s because cities are not simply giant supply chains; they are also spaces for experimentation, creativity, innovation, learning, and interaction.



Finally, while the “platform economy,” and its reliance on the Internet, computation, and data, has given rise to some of the most valuable companies in the world, it has also turned many citizens into passive consumers. The irony of hyper-connectivity is that people are less discerning not only about the products they buy, but also with the information they consume. It is, after all, this “attention economy” that spawned “fake news.”



Simply put, our digital utopia will not arrive unaided. We need a more ethical approach to engineering technology, one that integrates constitutional, cultural, and moral norms and values into artificial and autonomous systems. An “ethically aligned,” “value-sensitive” design approach is needed in every aspect of technological development – from smart devices to the software that supports our governments and markets.



For example, if democracy is to remain a viable political model, the information systems that democratic governments use must be designed to support human rights, dignity, self-determination, pluralism, division of responsibility, transparency, fairness, and justice.



To achieve this democratic digital future, the world needs to change how it thinks about technology. We need to build open, participatory information ecosystems that empower anyone in the global economy to contribute ideas, talent, and resources. In a networked world, where everything we do affects others, we must learn to think beyond ourselves, and pursue cooperation, co-creation, co-evolution, and collective intelligence.



If we progress accordingly, the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be more inclusive than the first; that is the future that my colleagues and I are working toward. For example, at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, we are engineering socially responsible communication networks and urban governance systems, while the FuturICT initiative, an international network of researchers, is applying a multidisciplinary approach to technology development. The goal of both research efforts is to facilitate a more equitable digital future.



We have the ability to engineer technology that serves us, rather than enslaves us. But building that future demands a new digital zeitgeist, whereby social, cultural, environmental, and ethical values become part of the design process. Innovations and revolutions are often upsetting and tumultuous, but in the digital age, they can also be responsible.


22 09 2018

How to Resolve Europe’s Political Crisis Over Migration
To address the migration issue effectively, Europe must evolve institutionally...

To address the migration issue effectively, Europe must evolve institutionally, so that it can respond more quickly and effectively to common challenges. Whether than means establishing so-called regional disembarkation platforms or some other mechanism remains to be seen.

BRUSSELS – Since the European Union’s migration crisis peaked in 2015, the number of illegal migrants arriving in the EU has fallen by 95%. Migration challenges remain, and reform of the EU’s methods for managing immigration is desperately needed, as the recent scandalous treatment of the Aquarius rescue vessel, which Italy and Malta turned away, made all too clear. But the timing of the immigration talks held by European leaders in Brussels last month was more a reflection of domestic political crises than a response to a spike in new arrivals.

Yes, Europe’s current asylum policies, which put the burden almost entirely on the countries that receive the most migrants, have failed. But right-wing populists have stoked fears and misconceptions about the number of people arriving in Europe – and about the effects of migration on our societies – to such an extent that their tactics are fueling political cleavages across the continent.

In response to domestic concerns over migration in Germany and Italy, EU government leaders agreed at their summit to explore the idea of “regional disembarkation platforms” in North Africa, under the auspices of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration. Such platforms, if organized in accordance with human rights standards, could allow rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, while reducing the incentive to embark on perilous journeys in the hands of human traffickers.

These proposals will require rigorous scrutiny. But regional disembarkation platforms, if implemented with full respect for human rights and combined with a revision of the so-called Dublin Regulation (according to which asylum-seekers must file their applications in the first EU country they reach) and burden-sharing among EU countries, could contribute to common management of migration. But the EU should also consider allowing applications for asylum and humanitarian visas directly at EU embassies in third countries, to weaken further the incentive to pay traffickers. This surely must be one of the EU’s objectives.

Building on the aims agreed by EU leaders, it is imperative that EU governments now conclude their work on the five legislative bills – on reception conditions, asylum qualifications, resettlement, the European Asylum Support Office, and Eurodac (the fingerprint database for asylum seekers) – already agreed with the European Parliament. National governments must also adopt positions on the Dublin Regulation so that negotiations with the European Parliament can finally start. The Parliament, building on the work of its rapporteur, Cecilia Wikström, and a strong majority of five political groups, has been ready to advance this work for more than a year and wants to see the Common European Asylum System completed before the European elections next May.

The Brussels summit was right to highlight the need for a deeper partnership with Africa, which entails stimulating private investment, promoting good governance, and increasing development aid. Migration between the two continents has been and will continue to be a prominent feature of the human story. The African Union and the EU must address the challenges raised by migration together, in particular the need to crack down on the criminal gangs that ruthlessly exploit desperate and vulnerable people.
Nationalist forces within individual EU member states have used migration in Europe for their own partisan purposes. With migrant numbers sharply down, the current political crisis is obviously symptomatic of a broader existential battle between empathetic liberalism and populist illiberalism.

The danger now is that, in order to resolve domestic partisan political disputes, such as between Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and the CDU’s Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, EU governments have opened the door to a retreat to bilateral agreements to solve intra-EU migration issues. This is both regrettable and dangerous, as it could lead to further bartering between individual countries over who is responsible for asylum seekers.

Europe must continue to seek a collective response – a humane, coherent European asylum and migration system, which respects international law and our European values – before thousands more people lose their lives. With the United States having disgraced itself under President Donald Trump – recently separating more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents, and now detaining migrant families indefinitely – Europe must show that a fair humanitarian approach is possible.

But to do that, Europe must evolve institutionally, so that it can respond more quickly and effectively to common challenges. Whether that means establishing regional disembarkation platforms or some other mechanism remains to be seen. But Europe should have learned from its lackluster response to the financial crisis that postponing essential but painful reforms only leads to more dramatic and complex political crises down the road. Maybe this time, with a political crisis over migration erupting three years after migration inflows peaked, that lesson will finally be recognized.


22 09 2018

Complete and Secure SMS Bulk Messaging Worldwide
A Vital International Communications Service for All Kinds of Companies with Global Ambitions

Hong Kong - Since its establishment in 1999, MobiWeb has been providing global bulk SMS Messaging for B2B, B2C and C2C mobile interaction.

Being a licensed Mobile Network Operator (MNO) and fixed carrier in several countries with its own direct ss7 capabilities, MobiWeb is the ideal partner for companies that demand high quality SMS messaging services, meeting the most demanding enterprise requirements.

MobiWeb actively participates in the development of the mobile ecosystem as a GSMA associate member and is one of the largest sms messaging providers in the world.  Headquartered in Hong Kong, MobiWeb has offices in United Kingdom, Belize, Turkey and Greece. MobiWeb international presence with offices located in 3 continents ensures client satisfaction covering local and international business needs.

MobiWeb provides high quality telecommunication solutions to more than 2350 enterprises across the globe and supports 1000+ mobile networks, in 200+ countries, allowing clients to reach billions of subscribers.
WEIE took the opportunity to discuss MobiWeb’s success with the company’s CEO, Peter Kappos.  Read on to find out what makes the company stand out as a complete telecommunications solution provider.

You were awarded Excellence of the Year – Innovation & Leadership – SMS Messaging Provider, Asia at the Le Fonti Awards Ceremony in March 2018. How would you like to comment on this victory?

I am honored to win this award. This achievement is the result of our hard work and our focus on growth and innovation in the enterprise messaging market.
However, successful management is not only conducive to the generation of economic growth. Vision, leadership, inspiring and motivating others, are now becoming even more important. It takes a lot of teamwork, inspiration, innovation and good old-fashioned hard-work to bring a company to global excellence and we believe MobiWeb is achieving this accomplishment.

We strive to progress the industry by contributing to the telecom community through our GSMA membership. This award is an inspiration to continue on the same path, progressing and disrupting the enterprise messaging industry with new, innovative products.

MobiWeb is a leading end-to-end SMS Messaging Solutions Provider. Can you tell us more about your services?

Enterprises require SMS messaging to reach their customers directly as a means to offer them additional value. They cannot afford to have their communications compromised. They need security, reliability and quality services.  Our products solve exactly these problems by providing seamless secure messaging solutions, mission-critical transactions, marketing notifications and service alerts.

Through one connection, enterprises connect to our carrier-grade platforms and unlock enterprise messaging delivery to more than 6 billion subscribers of more than 1,500 mobile operators. They use SMS messaging for authentication, security, marketing, customer service and commerce.

Our client-base ranges from financial institutions and banks to social networks and chat applications. They all enjoy high-quality, performance, reliability and security in their business communications.

What are the main challenges in the Telecom sector now?


The increasing growth of mobile messaging applications and Over-The-Top players has become a threat to traditional telecom revenues and their declining monetization model. The current business model of telecom companies is in the process of becoming unsustainable.

To address this challenge, we believe telecom companies must adapt properly by investing in the development of new solutions that will drive innovation and meet consumer demand, leading to the creation of new revenue streams.


14 09 2018

Global Upside - Going Beyond Expectations
Enthusiasm, optimism and a long-term global strategy are the drivers of this US outsourcing company

Pasadena (CA) - Ragu and Gita Bhargava are successful serial entrepreneurs and they are convinced there is no problem that cannot be solved. Whether it is people, process or technology – everything can be made better with the right skills and the right tools.

Ragu and Gita are Co-Founders and CEO and COO, respectively, of Global Upside and its sister companies Global PEO Services, Mihi,and Gava Talent Solutions. Global Upside solves business complexity with world-class HR, Payroll, Accounting, Tax, Compliance, PEO, and Talent Acquisition services. With integrated, end-to-end support, companies can focus on innovation, growth, and excelling in their fields. Founded in 1999 in Silicon Valley, Global Upside today empowers companies in 100+ countries and is dedicated to solving complexity for companies everywhere they do business. The company has a North America headquarters in San Jose, CA and Asia Headquarters in Noida, India.

Mr. And Ms. Bhargava are both award-winning and successful business persons and Mr. Bhargava is also highly sought after expert on international business. In 2017, they appeared on Kathy Ireland’s show ‘Worldwide Business’ and were among a select group of US entrepreneurs invited by the Chinese Government to attend China’s OBOR Summit. Gita and Ragu were most recently awarded CEO and COO of the Year, respectively, for Innovation HR & Payroll North America at the world-renowned awards ceremony organized by Le Fonti in Milan, Italy on March 9th, 2018 and broadcasted around the globe. 

As an expert on international cultural affairs and outsourcing services, Ragu was invited to speak at Le Fonti’s CEO Summit which preceded the awards ceremony. WEIE took the opportunity to go through some of the main points voiced by Mr. Bhargava during the summit when he was asked about the evolution of human resources and the repercussions in society.  He suprised many with his wisdom and long-term vision.

How is the world of human resources changing and what are the challenges which lie ahead of you?

Human resources has always been a dynamic field. As a global talent pool has become more accessible to companies of all sizes across the globe, the traditional ideas of a job and the employer-employee relationship have developed. As the advent of the car changed the relationship to include car-payment perks and the like, the evolution of technology has allowed the gig economy to flourish in modern times. This transforms the traditional notions of a physical location, of set working hours, and specific employee benefits to reflect millenial and generation Z expectations. Employers cannot overlook these upcoming generations as they will bring great value to the workforce. As technology continues to be a part of our everyday lives and improve the ways in which we do business, the generations that grew up with it will help companies better leverage this technology.

How can the gig economy be considered an advantage or disadvantage on the part of the employer?

The phenomenal growth of the gig economy provides employers the ability to draw from a talent pool across the world. Say you’re looking for a computer programmer but you don’t have the budget to hire one in the US. Instead, you can turn to Poland, which has a very talented pool of computer programmer, and find multiple for the price of one programmer in the US. The access to a global talent pool is a huge advatage that companies of all sizes can leverage. However, it is important to be cautious of the changing expectations within the US and also the different expectations of employees in other countries. There are liability and regulatory issues that come with the gig economy and can pose serious challenges for companies not well-verse in compliance. Actually, the fact that the “millenial” employee is so mobile and not tied down to work in a particular location is certainly an advantage for the potential employer when recruting.  An employer will certainly benefit from the fact that the potential employee knows no boundaries, so a company based in Milan can seek out talent based in the United States or anywhere in the world and viably consider relocation as an option.  The possibilities that a potential employee says no to an international offer diminish considerably.  At the same time, however, employers must be aware of millenials’ needs and while it is not necessarily a disadvantage, both parties need to adjust to the new relationship.

What can you tell us about the compliance challenges that come with the gig economy?

If you’re hiring gig economy employees within your own country, it’s important to have good tracking and visibility in place. However, as you hire internationally, it becomes much more complex and this is usually where companies have the most trouble. They tend to apply their host country rules to new overseas employees, but as HR and payroll laws are different in different countries, it becomes crucial to know and undertand those differences.

What are some strategies for companies to adapt to this new trend?

As I touched upon earlier, companies can use the gig economy to find some of the most talented candidates; these candidates are quite valuable as they may have a depth of experience that those working in one physical location of your company may not have. A major factor for companies looking to adapt to the gig economy is to provide HR and payroll departments with visibility into their global workforce. Managing time and attendence, benefits, vacation, and more across multiple countries can easily be too complex for an HR department to handle without the proper tools. That’s what our global workforce software, Mihi, was built to do. And finally, some governments have begun to recognize that this gig economy exists. They have started to allow professional employer organizations, like Global PEO Services, to come in and co-employ someone. Companies can ensure compliance with taxes and benefits in every location they operate. Slowly but surely, the path to utilizing the gig economy is becoming is opening up.

Following the summit, WEIE had a brief interview with both Mr. and Mrs. Bhargava to give readers a better idea of the company’s solutions, their experiences with clients, and future corporate initiatives. Their inexorable optimism is a good indicator of the company’s successful approach.

What would you say is your genuine unique selling point, your competitve advantage with regards to the competition?

Today, it’s far easier for the global workforce to communicate or for companies to ship goods across borders. However, legal entities need to be set up, people need to get paid, taxes need to be filed, benefits need to be provided, employment laws need to be understood – you have to play by the rules.

Global Upside’s appeal is the ability to help our Clients throughout their entire lifecycle. From recruiting to retiring in HR, from recording to reporting in accounting and payroll, and everything in between. At Global Upside we move mountains for our Clients. With our global team, we help you in 100+ countries, with a single point of contact, and a 24/7 team. We are the operating system to keep business running.

In what way do you assist clients in reaching their goals?

Our mantra at Global Upside is impossible is not in our vocabulary. This is something that holds true for each and every one of us on a daily basis. We focus on creating the Ultimate Client Experience and solving the most complex challenges for our Clients. When you need results in a timely and accurate manner, we are there to help you reach your full potential.

You’ve done a phenomenal job creating Global Upside. What’s next? What’s going to keep driving you?

Our Clients are the ultimate driving force of our company. Our future is up to their decisions, but we aim to be a company that stands the test of time, solving complexity for decades to come.


14 09 2018

Lablaw - New Labour Market Drivers
The Italian Labour Market is in Continuous Fluctuation and is Competently Explained by Francesco Rotondi

Milan, Italy - During the past decade, perhaps remembered historically for the global economic crisis, technological and social forces have actually been contributing to the transformation of how work gets done, who does it, and especially its effects on the labor market.

WEIE approached the repercussions of this transformation and its evolution with regards to labor market law with Italian lawyer and employment specialist Francesco Rotondi.  In 2006, Mr. Rotondi partnered with Luca Failla to create Lablaw, an employment law firm with offices based in Italy and Dubai.  Rotondi’s pragmatic approach has stemmed from social and local market analyses deeply rooted in the principles of Roman law.


Mr. Rotondi, please tell us your strategy related to local market presence.

Lablaw has always taken into consideration a territorial marketing strategy, both nationally and internationally.  Indeed, the name “Lablaw” combines the international legal concept (Law) with a deeply rooted territorial and historical market presence (Lab):   lab refers to both a law laboratory, a sort of thinktank of evolving legal issues, and the English / Latin derivative labor.  When the name was adopted there were no impelling market issues as those at hand today.  However, our reasoning was based on a common law policy under the auspices of European Union Law.


Our national strategy has been based on fragmentation:  we have established our market presence according to local market drivers to which our work methodology adapts.  Our firm is prominently centered around our Milano headquarters, whose model is replicated nationally.  Our strategy is to recruit personnel whose professional expertise is consonant with Milano’s model at a local level.  We believe this modus operandi has yet to be adopted by any competitor and is the reason behind our success in opening offices in Rome, Padua, and Genoa followed by Naples, Pescara and Bari.  We are convinced that this is a winning strategy because we can be immediately responsive to companies’ needs with local branches, thus contributing to a cost reduction for the client company’s headquarters.  Moreover, we can increase our professional expertise in line with local market drivers.   In our business, we do not believe that “top-down” organizational governance is at all feasible; on the contrary, an organization’s structure must reflect local market drivers.


Our international strategy has not been overlooked either: we have created a law firm alliance specialized in labor law (L&E Global) with headquarters in Brussels and a worldwide market presence.  L&E Global’s General Director coordinates communication amongst all members both concerning lawmaking and social market drivers.   Each local firm is Lablaw’s country reference for the entire organization.  For example, while assisting Ferrero to establish a new series of global agreements, our role as “general contractor” allowed us to provide the necessary local legal staff to satisfy Ferrero’s needs without involving their Italian headquarters.  


Adopting the approach of a local market presence, like an “Italian desk” abroad, we created an international project to assist Italian businessmen invest in Dubai.  We had excluded other international hubs, like those in the UK, as locations to open a local market presence since the stringent, saturated market conditions in the country would not be conducive to the realization of a successful business venture.



The past decade’s socio-economic state has also contributed to profound transformations in the occupational and industrial structures globally.  How is the legal framework related to employment changing in Italy?  What points of view are being adopted from a legal standpoint in Europe and the Rest of the World?


It is important to make a premise here: labor market law is practiced and evolves according to economic and business needs which are also governed by social market drivers. We have noticed an overwhelming discrepancy between company and market requirements, which have evolved during this past decade, and legislative policies which have instead remained static.  Wage labor is still considered the norm amongst employment schemes, but thanks to this immobility, the legislative process is hostage to a continuous creation of “exceptions”.


In Europe, there are no evident examples of good or bad national employment law management; most European countries have reacted similarly, each expressing resistance to change. In the United States, on the other hand, legislation policies have evolved on the matter thanks to emphasis put on job content, rather than on wage labor or self-employment.



2018 is the year the EU’s GDPR - General Data Protection Regulation came into force.  What is going to change for companies and employees?


The EU’s GDPR is, in my opinion, just like the EU’s recent regulation on whistleblowing: an attempt to incorporate a legal regulation which is unfit for the proposed business framework.  Its objective is to bring a series of critical issues to the forefront of companies, and we should consider that 90% of Italian companies are made up of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) which, when compared to other European SMEs are, essentially micro businesses.   Italian SMEs’ successful performance is possible thanks to the absence of predefined legal obligations:  the GDPR implies the creation of a department within each organization whose goal is to guarantee the regulation’s application, an immediate cost outlay which organizations like Italian SMEs are not ready to incur.  For larger and more structured businesses this has not been the case, as these companies have been preparing to implement the regulation privy of radical cost burdens.



During the upcoming fourth industrial revolution, human capital will need to keep up with technological evolution.  In your opinion, are there nations which have integrated school and work better than others?  What is the current scenario in Italy?


Human resources competency remains at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution.  On the one hand, companies are constantly searching for the right personnel to fulfill their objectives, while on the other the unemployment rates remain unusually very high.


Even though some progress has been made, in Italy the educational system has not yet effectively taken into consideration companies’ human resources needs and Italian public institutions have been uncapable of applying EU employment schemes on a national level, like the Youth Guarantee.  Instead, large structured business organizations have autonomously created and adopted models based on school-work exchange programs. I am proud to announce that I am proactively part of 2 projects launched by Bosch Italy:  one is a training ground in which youngsters are placed in career pathways, while the other is a workforce development project called “Let’s Win Together”. The pathway includes career consulting, particularly important for those struggling in their job search, followed by career training:  youngsters are subsequently placed in companies, like Lablaw, which provide them with work experience.  Our idea is to represent a model which, if successful, could be replicated nationally by public institutions in a structured way.


In Europe, I would like to compare Italy with France and Germany.  In the latter, much effort has been put forth with regards to career training.  In Germany, for instance, many companies have made themselves available to participate in career pathways and trade unions have provided opportunities for old and young to meet and mutually exchange job experiences and roles as a way to create an inter-generational bond.  In Italy, on the other hand, similar attempts have only become an expedient to accompany the elderly towards retirement.



Technology has become an important resource for companies to compete globally.  Are today’s legal norms in Italy sufficient in guaranteeing employee dignity and privacy or do you think technology is becoming a means for the employer’s abusive control over them?


The Italian legal system is completely prepared to manage “invasive” technology issues.  Indeed, the entire legal apparatus built in 1970 was apparently capable of foreseeing the future: an underlying judicial philosophy had been conceived at the time and has subsequently evolved through the course of the years to be modified only very recently.  In my opinion, it is not an issue related to the invasion of privacy; rather, companies should manage technological evolution in the workplace without falling into the trap of auto-denying its usage.   This could lead to the generation of an audit mechanism in the workplace that goes beyond the employer’s sphere of control.


There appears to exist the notion that working around the normative framework related to the issue of privacy is sufficient enough to having it completely resolved.  The real problem is in its implementation and the public infrastructure which makes up its underlying framework:  for example, in my opinion, should the current draft of the so-called “dignity decree” be approved by parliament, serious employment repercussions would ensue because the current draft is can only guarantee a permanent work contract hiring scheme, without considering companies’ abilities to fulfill their role in the norm.  Before any consideration is made regarding its approval, a complete analysis of the public sector’s underlying framework needs to be made:  this involves the refoundation of Italian public institutions and making sure that companies do indeed invest in the public sector.  If norms are announced only as a way to promote political propaganda, these will remain empty and lacking in substance.  


14 09 2018

Authenticity is the US Food Industry's Key to Success
Lefonti’s Ceo Summit in New York City is a Provocative Discussion About Successfully Marketing Italian Food Products in the United States

New York City - WEIE’s summer issue provided full coverage of Le Fonti’s annual CEO Summit on the Food industry recently held in New York City at the end of June 2018.  The summit preceded Le Fonti’s annual Awards ceremony for 2018 and WEIE was there to gather insight on what food companies from the US believed are the strategic drivers to successfully marketing food products in the US.  Indeed, the title of the Summit was “Understanding the US Grocery Market”, where four esteemed companies and one blogger answered questions about marketing Italian food in the United States and their strategic outlook for the 21st century.


The event was conducted by two influential and well-known emcees for the food industry: Phil Lempert and Sabrina Buckwalter. Phil Lempert, "The Supermarket Guru," has appeared on ABC's The View, Dr.Oz, The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, and has founded The Lempert Report, Food, Nutrition & Science, Facts, Figures & the Future, and The Food Journal. Sabrina Buckwalter is a respected freelance journalist and producer.  The panel of the summit included Katie Graham, Senior Vice President of LOMAR (HyVee Distributing); Lorenzo Zurino (the CEO of The One Company), Paolo Zunino (the CEO of Esmach), Alessandro Negri Della Torre (New York branch head of the Law Firm Loconte & Partners), and Dara Pollack (food blogger).



The first panelist was The One Company’s CEO Lorenzo Zurino, who provided interesting insights about the evolution of the food market in the United States, and the challenges facing Italian producers and US distributors, particularly with regards to the authenticity of Italian food products.

Mr. Zurino is part of a four-generation family which has been providing consulting to Italian companies wishing to enter the US market.   His success stems from his straightforward and pragmatic approach to defining the US market’s specific characteristics in ways which may not always be noticeable to Italians. His contribution to the summit was well-received and he stressed the importance of educating the US consumer about the potential of Italian food products in the United States.


He stressed to us that it is important for the Italian company to be patient and to dedicate the necessary time and effort to obtain success in the US market.  Contrary to what may be perceived from Italy as a market conducive to reaping immediate benefits, Mr. Zurino’s advice is to apply constant pressure and to stay informed about the new trends and possible opportunities to promote innovative products in the US market. 


To this regard, he pointed out that the US food market has changed dramatically over the past 20-30 years. “10 years ago, I would have never imagined selling containers of healthy food in Manhattan”, he remarked, emphasizing that the market is in constant evolution and that US consumers are now more health conscious than ever before. The progressive and relentless evolution of the food market requires producers to be fully aware of the trends which may have both positive and negative repercussions.


In fact, Mr. Zurino did highlight a particularity of the US market with regards Italian products and which has a lot to do with authenticity. He asserted that the growing presence of “Italian-sounding” brands in the US market have become a deterrent to the growth of real, authentic Italian products on the market, and which have contributed to deteriorating their market share.  “Sales of authentic Italian food products amount to about $5 billion in the United States, but that figure skyrockets to over $60 billion if we take into consideration Italian-sounding products”, he declared, implying that it is the role of the Italian company, with the help of both US and Italian associations, to properly inform US consumers of the authenticity of products on the market so that they can make balanced purchasing decisions.



The next panelist, Mr. Paolo Zunino represented Esmach, a new participant at the CEO Summit of New York and winner of Excellence of the Year foodservice equipment Italy.  Esmach was featured in WEIE’s 2018 January–March issue in the Spotlight article “Baking Technology Made Easy and Environmentally Sustainable Worldwide”.  Esmach is part of the ALI Group, leaders in designing, producing and supplying machinery and solutions for food delivery.


Mr. Zunino agreed with The One Company’s CEO that there is a consistently evolving market in the United States.  US consumers are moving to larger purchasing categories (convenience food) and to fine foods, where in the latter category the request from clients (retailers) is to simplify productive processes and to automatize, particularly for innovative food like healthy food and traditional food.  “In terms of fine food restaurants and supermarkets, these are emphasizing the difference between fine foods and convenience foods categories which can lead to higher earnings in both categories” declared Zunino, recognizing on the one hand that the upscale market will tend to become more predictable while, on the other hand, the lower-class market will gain a little more quality in relation to its low-cost product segment.

He also agreed that it is important to maintain authenticity as a driver for growth of Italian products in the US market.  “It is important to create a story supporting a brand or product”, asserted Mr. Zunino, who also added that community building is a way to add a following to the success of a brand: “even if it means that only 1000 consumers (the community) will be buying the product, I know that I need to maintain their market following so that they continue to buy”.


The next panelist was Katie Graham, Senior Vice President of LOMAR of HyVee Distributing, specialized in distributing specialty food in the US market.  Ms. Graham agreed with Zunino’s comments about authenticity, adding that consumers are becoming more and more interested in knowing the origin of the food they eat and that what they are eating has a purpose, particularly with regards to their diet.


Mr. Lempert then commented that authenticity doesn't mean only genuineness of the product, but also “who the company producer is working with and how the company's funds are being invested”.  Thanks to technology, he added, consumers may agree “to shop at retail points selling products whose company producers espouse values in line with those of consumers”.

The 4th panelist was Dara Pollak, an experienced food blogger, whose precious suggestions were highly appreciated and an additional contribution.  Her comments confirmed Mr. Lempert’s assertions about the importance of millennials and generation-z consumers who have been trendsetters in recognizing the quality and value of food.  She did however insist that authenticity is also an issue regarding food industry bloggers and influencers as well: “The industry is quite cluttered” with many makeshift bloggers, “all you need is a phone and money to pay your followers,” adding that “we tend to lose sight of where the genuine credibility comes from and what it offers. The situation is getting out of hand.”   Ms. Pollak’s consistency in providing quality information thanks to her industry knowledge has allowed her to demonstrate her capabilities in a credible way from the start, from identifying whether or not products have been ethically sourced to issues related to fair trade.


To this regard, Mr. Lempert asked a final question about how tariffs have been impacting on food prices and availability which was partially answered by the final panelist, New York Branch head of the Loconte & Partners law firm, Alessandro Negri Della Torre.  He asserted that the issue is not so much the amount or value of the tariffs but, rather, the predictability of whether tariffs will be levied or not:  “Once you calculate how that impacts on your business, that can change due to a series of political assumptions that may not have to do with business.”  Predictability and stability are the issues, he added, stating “when there are changes occurring due to factors which cannot be predicted, business will slow down due to anxiety and result in a lack of rational business planning.”


In conclusion, there are a variety of issues which continue to keep food companies and influencers alert about the opportunities for Italian companies in the US market.  Along with authenticity, predictability and human resources management, Italian producers’ success in the US market will also depend on efficiency, quality and volumes. The degree to which food companies demonstrate corporate excellence in the United States will also depend on their approach on the market:  the mission and ideals they value will need to be efficiently transmitted to consumers who believe in them as well.


11 07 2018

Melco Awarded Best Promotions Events Team in Asia
During the March 2018n edition of the Le Fonti Awards Ceremony in Hong Kong

On March 23rd, 2018 Melco Resorts & Entertainment received Le Fonti’s prestigious award for Best Promotions & Events Team of the Year in Asia at the Hong Kong edition of the Le Fonti Awards Ceremony.  This was the second year in a row that the company received the award.      


“Melco Resorts & Entertainment has become renowned for promoting ‘innovative excitement in a new age’ in the events they organize, involving the best actors and talents worldwide”, said Mr. Guido Giommi, President of Le Fonti Group. “The company has successfully represented the ‘City of Dreams’ for all ages and a ‘next-generation’ of ‘must see, must experience’ leisure and entertainment experiences”.


“Melco is honored to receive this prestigious Le Fonti IAIR Award for the second year running, especially with such an exceptional array of nominees and leaders from various sectors across the globe,” commented Melco.  The company also added, “it is a testimony to Melco’s dedication and efforts to presenting superior standards of quality, and to the Company’s contribution in promoting Macau as the world’s center of leisure, tourism and gastronomy”.


04 07 2018

New York was the Venue of the 8th International Edition of the Awards Ceremony







New York was the venue of the 8th international edition of the awards ceremony


On July 1st, 2018 the world’s leading corporate stars reunited for a special occasion, the 8th Le Fonti Awards Gala and CEO Summit in New York. Le Fonti Awards are held each year in multiple locations recognizing industry leaders in banking, business, economics, finance, sustainability, law, healthcare, food, insurance and e-commerce. This year, the New York Gala & CEO Summit was held at the Yale Club of New York City, a luxurious venue located in the heart of downtown Manhattan, hosted by 2 influential and prominent TV presenters and MCs, Phil Lempert and Sabrina Buckwalter. Mr. Lempert, “TheSupermarketGuru®”, is a renowned consumer trends researcher and analyst of the food market who has appeared in important TV broadcasts such as ABC’s The View, FOX Business, Dr.Oz, The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, CNN, CNBC, FOX as well as The Lempert Report, Food, Nutrition & Science, Facts, Figures & the Future, and The Food Journal. Ms. Buckwalter is a renowned freelance producer and investigative journalist and researcher. 


The title at this year’s CEO Summit round table which preceded the awards ceremony was Understanding the US Grocery Market, a discussion focusing on the important drivers which are impacting and will impact on the US food industry and beyond in the 21st century.  Renowned participants included Katie Graham, (SVP of Lomar Distributing, subsidiary of Hy-Vee Inc.); Lorenzo Zurino, (CEO of The One Company); Paolo Zunino, (CEO of Esmach); Alessandro Negri Della Torre, (Director of the New York branch of Loconte & Partners law firm), and Dara Pollack, (food blogger).  


The winners were selected after being carefully evaluated by Le Fonti’s editorial staff of over 120 journalists from around the world. The Le Fonti Food Awards winners were Esmach (Excellence of the Year, Foodservice Equipment, Italy), The One Company (Excellence of the Year, Export Food, Italy), and Pariani (Excellence of the Year, Food, Italy) while the  Legal Awards category winners were MPMLEGAL (Excellence of the Year, International Law, Italy) and Loconte & Partners (Excellence of the Year, Wealth Management, Italy) .


See the entire list of 2018 Le Fonti Awards winners at http://www.lefontiawards.it/vincitori.php


About Le Fonti


Le Fonti is a media company and the leading innovation independent source of analysis on international business, finance, technology and world affairs, with editorial offices in London, New York, Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong. We deliver our information through a range of formats, including monthly and quarterly magazines, conferences, C-level summits, roundtables, international fairs, awards ceremonies, gala dinners and electronic services. We have been recognized as one of the world’s leading providers of business awards for excellence in leadership and innovation. www.lefonti.com   



Le Fonti S.r.l.
Press Office
Tel. +39 02 873 863 06




04 07 2018

The Next Phase of Finance
Today’s strengthening economic recovery has not overcome the understandable but devastating loss of trust...

Today’s strengthening economic recovery has not overcome the understandable but devastating loss of trust in the financial system that followed the crisis a decade ago. Restoring trust will require reasserting control over the financial sector, to ensure that it is serving the economy, not the other way around.


WASHINGTON, DC – The decade since the global financial crisis has been tumultuous, to say the least. True, no great war has erupted, and we have more or less avoided the mistakes of the Great Depression, which led in the 1930s to greater protectionism, bank failures, severe austerity, and a deflationary environment. But renewed market tensions indicate that these risks have not been eradicated so much as papered over.


In a sense, the story of the 2008 financial crisis begins when the global order was created from the ashes of World War II. Initiatives like the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), the Marshall Plan, and the European Economic Community supported the reconstruction of significant portions of the world economy. Despite the Cold War (or perhaps because of it), they also re-started the globalization that WWII had brought to a halt.


This globalization process was interrupted during the late 1960s and early 1970s, owing to the Vietnam War, the suspension of the US dollar’s convertibility into gold, the 1973 oil price shock, and the great stagflation. But the United States and the United Kingdom then underwent a kind of conservative revolution and a revival of neoliberal economic policies, including widespread deregulation, trade liberalization, and unprecedented capital-account openness.


While this redesigned globalization process helped to fuel growth and development, its effects were uneven, and the financial and economic changes it wrought outpaced legal and ethical adaptation. Particularly consequential, innovative financial instruments were used with abandon, subject to only loose supervision and weak regulation. As a result, finance eventually became the master of the world economy, rather than its servant.


Given all of this, when the crisis struck, it was deep and far-reaching, and today’s strengthening economic recovery has not overcome the understandable but devastating loss of trust in the financial system that followed. This has been made apparent by political developments in the US and Europe. US President Donald Trump’s administration continues to tout an “America First” policy approach, reflected, most recently, in the imposition of large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The United Kingdom’s vote for Brexit reflects a similar backlash. Meanwhile, state-led capitalism offers China’s economy its own protections.


But polarizing new models of competition and resistance to trade are not the way to restore trust. Instead, we need to reassert control over the financial sector, to ensure that it is serving the economy, not vice versa, by advancing a set of goals upon which the world agrees – beginning with those established at three momentous conferences in 2015.


At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, participants set economic, social, and environmental priorities with which financing flows and policies for sustainable development should be aligned. At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York, UN member countries formally adopted an ambitious new global agenda. And at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, countries agreed to hold global warming well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


Articulating these goals was an important first step. But if the world is serious about achieving these shared goals, an effective mechanism for financing them must be established, supported by well-designed regulations that create the right incentives. And, so far, the world has not made nearly enough progress on this front, as the continued misallocation of capital shows.


Stakeholders must take a longer-term view of business operations and investment strategies. Finance must be made genuinely useful, balancing progress toward agreed goals – guided by existing global targets – with the need to generate sufficient financial returns to ensure that progress is sustainable. We must keep saying it, and keep doing it. There is no other option.


In some quarters, commitment to global goals has so far been too weak. In the case of the US and the Paris climate agreement, that commitment has been rescinded outright. But, to succeed, everyone must be on board. This includes multilateral lenders, which need to revise old tools and rapidly develop new ones, in order to mobilize private-sector capital. The private sector, for its part, must be open to an updated approach to public-private partnerships. Simply paying lip service to change, while clinging to outdated modes of working, is not an option.


More broadly, we need to work to ensure that the benefits of technology are shared by all. To that end, we should follow the advice of David Lipton, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, and move beyond the fashionable “OHIO” approach, focused on getting one’s “own house in order,” to the more demanding California – or “CA” – strategy of “collective action.”


The path ahead will not be easy. But this is no excuse for apathy. As investors, consumers, voters, and citizens, we must make our voices heard, in order to ensure that finance is used to promote shared values and the common good. Only then can we go beyond merely avoiding another devastating crisis and build a better future.


29 06 2018

Education in the Digital Age
While no human will be able to compete with intelligent machines when it comes to reciting facts or performing formulaic calculations....

While no human will be able to compete with intelligent machines when it comes to reciting facts or performing formulaic calculations, human ingenuity and creativity remain unmatched. We should make the most of that fact, and give young people the opportunity to use their advantages as effectively as possible.


TOKYO – The Fourth Industrial Revolution stands out from its predecessors in a critical way: rather than making it easier for humans to use their surroundings more effectively for their own benefit, technology is displacing humans in the workplace. The question is who will benefit now.1


Automated or otherwise technology-enabled services can increase profit margins for companies, while representing for users cheaper, more convenient, or more reliable options than those produced exclusively by humans. But, of course, this comes at a high cost for the humans who previously filled those roles.


People all over the world have embraced ridesharing and transportation services like Uber, to the detriment of traditional taxi drivers. When artificial intelligence-enabled driverless cars become cost-effective and reliable, Uber and taxi drivers alike will become obsolete.


In stock trading, 79% of market transactions are now performed by software, according to Frank Zhang of the Yale School of Management, reflecting the hope that machines will be able to identify patterns more effectively than a human could – a hope that may have contributed to the recent stock-market correction. In any case, this doesn’t bode well for human traders.


I myself have saved on translation costs since realizing that, with some edits by me, Google Translate can work just fine, though this means lost income for the graduate students whom I used to hire the task. While simultaneous interpreters – who occupy a high-paid profession – may scoff at the notion that machines will threaten their positions any time soon, the success of machine learning in highly complex strategic games like Go suggests that machines’ ability to learn should not be underestimated.


In short, the AI-driven revolution will have its winners and losers. To win, it is vital not just to avoid being displaced by new technologies, but also to capitalize on the new opportunities they present. This might mean investing in cutting-edge businesses like Uber, as the Japanese-Korean industrialist Masayoshi Son has done. Or it might mean acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to secure a job that takes advantage of this new economy.


Such responses are good not just for individuals, but also for economies as a whole. In Japan, for example, human-capital development is crucial to support growth as the population ages and shrinks. And that process begins early: as the Nobel laureate economist James Heckman has shown, education of young children has a significant impact on productivity. That is why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that half of the extra revenues raised from the consumption-tax hike that will go into effect in 2019 will be invested in pre-school education.


To give young people the tools they will need to thrive in the changing digital economy, such investment must focus on improving the quality of education. That may mean transforming curricula to focus less on rote learning or straightforward calculation and more on skills like critical thinking, communication, and leadership.


Education in Japan today – and perhaps also in South Korea – is something like the game “Jeopardy”: the one who knows the most facts is the winner. The best-known means by which Japanese students are ranked is hensachi – literally translated as “standard deviation” – which reflects how far from the statistical mean a typical student admitted to a given institution scores on a test focused on memorized formulas and facts.


Students with higher positive hensachi scores are admitted to more rigorous high schools and colleges, where they are often encouraged to study medicine, simply because the entrance exam is difficult, even if they have no interest in a medical career. Otherwise, they compete to become bureaucrats at the most influential ministries – for example, finance, economy, or foreign affairs – or they try to get on the fast track to the top of elite firms like Toyota or Sony.


Hensachi scores thus determine people’s entire career trajectories. High scores mean a comfortable life, all the way through retirement. Given this, Japanese students feel pressured to memorize information from a very young age. Parents will go so far as to move to a district where the kindergarten is linked to a renowned university.


This system did not begin in Japan. On the contrary, it is an outgrowth of the system for assessing and promoting Chinese bureaucrats that prevailed until the early twentieth century.While it is a form of meritocracy, and thus superior to nepotism, it fails to take into account the reality that a capacity for rote learning does not necessarily imply an aptitude for creativity or ingenuity.


Even if it did, we might not find out, because memorizing enough information to secure high scores on assessments leaves little time to learn to think – to develop skills or foster talents that could amount to a real contribution to one’s community and country. In fact, a system based on hensachi actively discourages those who do have valuable talents from developing them into useful skills. Yet, in the age of AI, those talents and skills are more valuable than ever.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution will amount to a major test for a Japanese education system focused on reciting facts and performing formulaic calculations – precisely the areas where humans cannot compete with intelligent machines. With all of our technological developments, human ingenuity and creativity remain unmatched. We should make the most of that, and give our young people the opportunity to use their innate advantages as effectively as possible.


29 06 2018

Excellence is Believing in Values
Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks voices his opinions and gives his suggestions about what makes this food company so special

Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of the largest coffee chain in the world, will open the World Innovation Food Summit on May 7th 2018 in Milan, Italy.  He has revolutionized the way we consume and appreciate coffee but has also set new standards for corporate social responsibility and employee benefits.  Workers at Starbucks receive generous benefits like stock options and even free college tuition.  Starbucks is ranked as one of the best companies to work for according to its employees.  WEIE was at the summit to provide you with the exclusive details and suggestions provided by Schultz in his memorable speech.


Growing up in a working-class family in Canarsie, Brooklyn, Mr. Schultz experienced first-hand the struggles that American families face to make ends meet. Coffee figured early in his career: upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, Schultz worked for Hammarplast selling European coffee machines in the United States. His position led to his first encounter with The Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spice Company, a small Seattle-based operation founded in 1971 that sold high quality beans to retail outlets. In 1982 he was hired as the Director of Retail Operations and Marketing for the young company, and in 1987 he bought out the company and became its CEO.  The company had only 11 retail points and about 100 employees, with a dream to become a national brand.  Schultz’s approach was quite focused from the beginning.  In looking for investors, his plan was to provide worker with complete health insurance (something still unavailable to the majority of American citizens), and ownership in the company.  It was not easy at first and many investors were wary of the company.  However, through perseverance and har work, Starbucks raised the money and became a recognized national brand.


"Dream big, surround yourself with the right people, leave your ego at the door and, most importantly, share your success." These are the credos which Schultz has attempted to instill in Starbucks and its employees: The success of the company will depend on the values it instills in its employees and the employees themselves, much more so than the products or services offered.   “When building a business you need to imprint it with a set of values which will endure”, he declared, stating that the love and passion you show in the company will in the long-run pay off.  The market place is quite transparent and consumers will be well-aware of the main competitors, their values and what they have to offer.  However, the defining characteristic of a competitor is the value set which he/she decides to adopt as this will in turn determine who his/her consumer will be: “Consumers will tend to choose that company whose values are compatible to their own”.


Challenging the status quo is another important piece of advice he provided during his discussion with young entrepreneurs following his speech.  “When you achieve success the worst thing you can do is rest on your laurels”, he affirmed, stating that is always important to challenge what you take for granted and “push for self-renewal and reinvention.  Innovation must be disruptive.”


“We have to do much more for the communities we serve and the employees we work with,” insisted Schultz during the speech, adding that his dream was to create the kind of company whose employees could say, “I’m proud of the company and trust what management is trying to do”. It’s a dream of a company which values every single employee individually, wants to make the employee grow in his/her career and embraces diversity.  It’s the foundation on which Starbucks has successfully constructed its corporate success worldwide.


Schultz’s praise for the relationship built with Starbuck’s employees can be summarized by his belief that if the company exceeds the expectations of its employees, its employees will in turn exceed the expectations of customers.  Sharing success in this way, there will be a sense of motivation and passion to do things for the company that they would do as if they owned it themselves.  He also stressed that success is not an entitlement but needs to be earned every single day.  Sometimes, despite your best intentions, mistakes will be made.  In 2008, Starbucks encountered hard financial times but “stuck to its guns” by continuing to provide its employees health insurance, notwithstanding the opportunity to remove it ($250 million in 2008) as a way to remedy the financial difficulty. Schultz even lost an important institutional investor who had suggested the move, but the final decision to maintain health insurance for its employees it was a “defining moment”.  “The foundation which has driven the success of the company is something we have no patent”, he declared, “it is simply the culture of trust, confidence and truth inside the company”.  That trust could not be severed and was far too important to Starbucks than to heed the investor’s advice.  That defining moment was what kept Starbuck’s in favor of upholding the company’s value system and framework of servant leadership.


Schultz used the metaphor of a company which has two “reservoirs”, one dedicated to the values, trust, goodwill and non-tangible benefits of the company, while the other reservoir is one where you need to maintain the company profit and promote the company’s business. His suggestion is to keep the former as full as possible compared to the latter. The former will pay many more dividends, even more so in the long term, and will guide a company to success. 


He cited the example of the Chinese market where, after 9 years of losing money and notwithstanding the 3,300 stores in the market, and important decision was made to reinforce the company’s value system which in turn helped motivate workers which, in turn, improved profitability.  In 2017, Starbucks became the first American company in China provide Chinese workers with health insurance that extends coverage to their parents, a unique offering by the coffeehouse chain that may be used by more than 10,000 people to treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. This was to demonstrate what he coined in a phrase: "we aren't in the coffee business serving people, we are in the  people business serving coffee". 


In another example he cited the word "Ubuntu," a South African word, means "I am because of you,".  In short, it implies that regardless of where you come from, you are destined to change the world. The same could be applied to Starbucks employees:  Starbucks is because of you, you are because of Starbucks: "We are because of each other. Ubuntu." He first learned the word in 2017, when he opened two Starbucks stores in Johannesburg, South Africa. During that time, Schultz met with 50 young employees who used it to describe their excitement about starting new jobs at Starbucks.


Milan holds a special place in Mr. Schultz’s career path, as it was on a visit to the city in 1983 that he understood that coffee was more than a beverage, it was an experience, one based on relationships and bonding between people. It was here that the Starbucks journey actually began.  It was here that he realized that the coffee business was indeed the people business as it is a product which tends to create a community and make people want to communicate.  Schultz was convinced that the Italian experience of coffee beverages like lattes and cappuccinos, and the community that develops around this shared passion, was a valuable formula ripe for international export. He departed from Starbucks and took his enthusiasm for coffee cultures to Il Giornale, a coffee bar chain that grew into a very successful brand. It was so successful in fact, that Il Giornale purchased Starbucks in 1987, and Schultz became President and CEO of the company that first inspired him. Schultz announced that Starbucks will be opening its first roastery in Italy in Milan in Piazza Cordusio in September 2018.


Today, Starbucks is one of the world’s most successful companies, valued at $77 billion, with more than 21,000 stores around the world, and 350,000 employees serving 100 million customers weekly around the world. In 2017, Starbucks announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in response to Us President Donald Trump’s travel ban towards refugees from certain countries in which terrorists have been residing.  Schultz’s move was an effort to uphold the values of America and what they stand for as he saw they were being undermined by Trump’s decision.


Under Schultz’s stewardship, Starbucks has been an early proponent of corporate social responsibility, and its 2016 Global Social Impact Report outlined the company’s vision for the future with particular emphasis on sustainability, greener retail, and community engagements. In May 2016, Starbucks issued a $495.6 million sustainability bond to use its influence in the coffee supply chain to improve working conditions for farmers and combat the environmental risks to coffee farms around the world.


More specifically, he said the coffee industry is now suffering from rust due to lack of rainfall.  As a result, Starbucks is working on the following measures as a remedy: 2 million new trees are being planted worldwide, a 600 hectar coffee farm is being built and the company is working to share sustainable coffee best practice stories to farmers around the world.


Another piece of advice related to food sustainability was his complete approval of 100% transparency of food ingredients and plant-based foods growing.  He announced that Starbucks has a whole line of plant-based beverages now being sold in the United States.


In breaking news, on May 7th 2018, the Swiss-based food giant Nestlé has decided to pay $7.15 billion for the rights to sell the US coffee chain’s products around the world in a global alliance aimed at reinvigorating their coffee empires.


The deal for a business with $2 billion in sales reinforces Nestlé’s position as the world’s biggest coffee company, with brands such as Nescafé and Nespresso.  Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain, said it would use the proceeds to return money to shareholders by speeding up a share buyback program. The transaction does not involve any Starbucks cafes and will involve selling Starbucks bagged coffee, drinks and Nespresso-style pods. Moreover, the Nestlé name will not appear on Starbucks products. “We do not want the consumer to perceive that Starbucks is now part of a bigger family,” a Nestlè source said.


Starbucks is the second-most-valuable brand in fast food, according to BrandZ’s Global 2017 report, which estimates it’s worth $44 billion.


28 06 2018

A Learning Experience with a Global Reach
Student Engagement and Innovation are at the Heart of a Superior Learning Experience

Singapore - The International Institute of Management & Leadership (IIML) is a for-profit learning entity with headquarters in Singapore and an offshore campus in Mumbai, India.  IIML has been founded with a vision of imparting futuristic learning, training and growth solutions for individuals and organizations. It is spread across three business verticals: Education, Training and Consulting. IIML Singapore has gained international standing sustained by means of basic and applied research. By partaking in a European and global network of international centers of knowledge Management, IIML Singapore works on large projects with several like-minded worldwide universities and business schools. By cultivating close relations with the firms, agencies, their management and officials, IIML constantly interacts with the business and economic environment to assess new issues, implement new techniques, and start new research endeavors. WEIE took the opportunity to meet with the Shankar Iyer, Director and CEO of IIML, to let readers know about the extraordinary opportunities available for innovative learning. Mr. Iyer was also a panelist of the CEO Summit organized by Le Fonti, with coverage from WEIE, in which he contributed with suggestions about learning and the skills need to succeed in the real world.


1)    What distinguishes you as a company from the competition, particularly in Asia? What is your USP and why should a potential investor contact you as opposed to another competitor?


We as International Institute of Management & Leadership (IIML) believe in powering the Gen-Next, and are convinced that education is one of the most powerful catalyzers to reach this goal. We strive to keep students constantly engaged and to approach real-world problems thinking “out-of-the-box” which is often a required match in today’s ever-changing and dynamic corporate-world needs.


We differ from the competition because we try to be creative and intuitive in terms of delivery of the educational content to students. We want to maintain the students’ full-time participation in the learning process because in today’s world of information overload we realize that there are a variety of distractions which can contribute to the student’s learning gap. Our faculty and the Academic Board try to bridge the gap by incorporating essential skills in our didactic approach, i.e. skills required by industry and applicable in the real world, thereby creating a value proposition for our clients and the industry.



2)    What is it that competitors respect about you and what do you respect most about the competition?


Competition is a key element for growth and success:  we learn a lot of things from our competitors and strive to continuously inculcate best practices into our institution’s learning process and are sure that competition would do the same. We believe that learning exists everywhere.


3)    You have mentioned that the three verticals you are pursuing for your students are Education, Training and Consulting.  In what way do you plan to develop these areas in the upcoming years and what do you foresee are your students’ expectations?


The training and consulting verticals help us to determine a lot of areas where there is potential talent to be developed.  Our objective is to put industry in the  position to cut down on the gestation period of developing a technology and go straight to creating the business model and taking it to market.   This also allows us to better understand the development required within the existing curricula that we have. Our students are already being prepared to work with a global mindset through our multi-country study module. We are aware that students’ expectations are being satisfied by the way we enable them to keep up with their peers and even surpass them.    In the future, we envisage  that one of the key challenges to us as a learning institution will be our ability to maintain the right balance between the use of technology and human elements to deliver our curriculum.




4)    What are the strategic goals for your organization in the next 2-5 years and what is the role of partnerships in reaching these goals?


One of the key strategic goals of our Institute is to deliver our vision to various countries across the globe, and we see a huge potential in the tier two-three cities for the programs that we offer. Indeed, partnerships could play a crucial role in enabling us to achieve this vision while at the same time the main challenge would be to identify these potential partners.



5)    What is your opinion about life-long learning? What are your thoughts about the future of training and learning in your region and around the world and what are the prospects for digitalization and automated learning?


In general, we strongly believe that learning is a life-long process.  Every day is a challenge in its own way, and we believe anybody could accept the statement that learning is a key element for exploring oneself.

Developing economies are investing substantially in up-gradation knowledge and skills and market potential looks promising for our industry. The Asia-Pacific region has been developing as one of the key education hubs in the world for training and learning. Singapore in particular has been quite successful in attracting students from around the world. Widely touted as an economic miracle, Singapore is a key global business and financial hub and one of the most developed countries in Asia. It is also well recognized as one of the world’s freest, most competitive and business friendly economies, and is currently ranked first in Word Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. For this reason, we believe that Singapore has been an additional asset for our organization, paving the way for improved prospects for digitalization and automated learning both for our organization and especially our students.




18 06 2018

The Singapore Summit's Uncertain Legacy
Richard N. Haass is not optimistic that North Korea will denuclearize, partly because Donald Trump is a weak negotiator.

Donald Trump’s depiction of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a great success that solved the nuclear problem could make it tougher to maintain international support for the economic sanctions that are still needed to pressure Kim. Weakening the prospect of achieving one's goals is not the mark of a strong negotiator.


NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump returned from his short summit meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jung-un in an exultant mood. “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” He subsequently told reporters, “I have solved that problem.”


There is only one catch: what Trump claimed was untrue. The nuclear threat posed by North Korea remains undiminished. The joint statement issued by the two leaders was as brief – just 391 words – as it was vague.


The statement was far more about aspirations than accomplishments. North Korea committed only “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Missing was any definition of what denuclearization might entail, a timeline for implementation, or a reference to how any actions would be verified. Other issues related to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missiles, were not even mentioned. Thus far, at least, the agreement with North Korea compares unfavorably to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump denounced – and then renounced a month before meeting Kim.


This is not to argue that the Singapore summit had no value. At least for now, bilateral relations are in a better place than they were a year ago, when North Korea was conducting nuclear and missile tests, and observers (including me) were busy calculating the chances that the two countries would be making war rather than peace. And, looking forward, there is, in principle, the possibility that the United States and North Korea will be able to reach agreement on the many relevant issues and details that the Singapore summit statement left out.


But turning this possibility into reality will be extraordinarily difficult. There are many reasons to doubt whether North Korea will ever give up weaponry that, more than anything else, explains America’s willingness to take it seriously and treat it as something of an equal. In addition, the experience of Ukraine, a country that gave up its nuclear weapons, only to see the world do nothing when Russia annexed Crimea, hardly provides a reason for Kim Jung-un to follow suit. Much the same could be said of Libya, given Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fate.


There is also good reason to doubt that North Korea, arguably the world’s most closed and secretive country, would ever permit the sort of intrusive international inspections that would be required to verify that it had complied with undertakings spelled out in some future pact.


Trump seems to think that Kim can be swayed not simply by threats and pressure, but by flattery and promises as well. The White House released a four-minute video that showcased Kim as someone who could be a great historical figure if only he would fundamentally change. The video also went to great lengths to show what North Korea could gain economically were it to meet US demands. The president even spoke of the North’s potential as a venue for real-estate development and tourism.


What seems not to have occurred to Trump is that such a future holds more peril than promise to someone whose family has ruled with an iron grip for three generations. A North Korea open to Western businessmen might soon find itself penetrated by Western ideas. Popular unrest would be sure to follow.


Trump emphasizes the importance of personal relationships, and he claimed to have developed one with Kim in a matter of hours. More than once, he spoke of the trust he had for a leader with a record of killing off those (including an uncle and a brother) he deemed his enemies. All of this turned Ronald Reagan’s maxim – “trust, but verify” – on its head, to something like “Don’t verify, but trust.”


In fact, some of Trump’s post-summit remarks have actually weakened the prospect of achieving his goals. His depiction of the summit as a great success that solved the nuclear problem will make it that much tougher to maintain international support for the economic sanctions that are still needed to pressure North Korea. Trump also did himself no favor by unilaterally announcing that the US would no longer conduct what he described as “provocative” war games, also known as military exercises meant to ensure readiness and enhance deterrence. In so doing, he not only alarmed several US allies, but also gave away what he could have traded for something from North Korea.


The danger, of course, is that subsequent negotiations will fail, for all these reasons, to bring about the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea that the US has said must happen soon. Trump would likely then accuse Kim of betraying his trust.


In that case, the US would have three options. It could accept less than full denuclearization, an outcome that Trump and his top aides have said they would reject. It could impose even stricter sanctions, to which China and Russia are unlikely to sign up. Or it could reintroduce the threat of military force, which South Korea, in particular, would resist.


But if Trump concludes that diplomacy has failed, he could nonetheless opt for military action, a course John Bolton suggested just before becoming national security adviser. This would hardly be the legacy that Trump intended for the Singapore summit, but it remains more possible than his optimistic tweets would lead one to believe.


04 06 2018

The Future Now.. #BECUSTOM Everyday, Everywhere!
Custom SpA Press Release - Parma June 6, 2018

Thanks to all the journalists from Brazil, Romania, India and Italy for taking part in this 3-day event of conferences and roundtable discussions. A new storytelling formula that Custom has decided to dedicate to the international press in a bid to share the milestones and objectives of the Custom Group in the world.

“In a historic period when technology development is unstoppable and, on the whole, incomprehensible to most individuals”, states Communications manager Alessandro Mastropasqua, “the Custom Group has chosen to use a
‘dissemination’ event to discuss CUSTOM technological solutions, present in over 68 countries worldwide, pooling results and advantages. An appointment to explore, divulge and share know-how, to take inspiration from what is already functional, effective, innovative and advantageous.

It’s the beginning of a natural osmosis principle, the fruit of the company’s desire to create a flow of information, data and knowledge about integrated solutions already present in everyday life. A new ‘technological culture’; not just a preview of what will happen tomorrow, but rather today’s future for a collective awareness”, says Mastropasqua. During the Press Tour the management and the front line will present recent highlights linked to the Group:

> new solutions ensured by the three acquisitions concluded in 2018: Power2Retail, Nitere and Italiana Macchi;
> development of new printing technology to reduce consumption, improving speed and printing precision;
> simplification and innovation for the development of technology to improve security and profiling of people;
> new headquarters.

Different objectives have been reached and projects concluded, from France to China and from the Arctic to the Antarctic,using synergistic and transverse innovation in different markets.

The primary fashion and luxury brands, including renowned Damiani, Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel and Ferragamo to name just a few, not to mention those businesses that believed in the Group, developing truly custom made projects based on a synergistic relationship such as, for example, the Calzedonia Group, which now uses Custom hardware and service solutions in over 4,500 retail outlets worldwide.

The group has accompanied primary brands for over 10 years in retail distribution and large scale organized distribution, offering hardware, software and service solutions to support the specific needs of a sector in continuous development. A sector where the time to market changes rapidly, making it essential to choose innovative, stable and easily implemented solutions, such as those offered to CONAD, CRAI, FAMILA.

In the industrial sector, the Group’s first business unit launched over 25 years ago, and their solutions lead the way for the automotive industry, from the automation of the whole industrial sector characterized by a multitude of solutions for the Kiosk environment, also arriving in the medical sector. The Group offers various solutions in transportation, such as Trenitalia, Italo, OBB, AMTRAK in the USA or PVD in Russia, as well as solutions for metro systems, light transport and even the aviation sector, with over 300 airports worldwide using Custom technology to guarantee boarding pass and baggage tag printing.

In the fields of finance and banking, there are various solutions for ATM from Diebold, Wincor, and NCR to the code elimination solutions present in all post offices and self-service and cash deposit solutions around the world. Custom is present even during leisure time, from ferries to cruises, taking in world renowned museums such as the Louvre, Buckingham Palace, the Egyptian Museum and the Great Pyramid of Giza or for bike sharing solutions and ticket issue for the most important sporting events, including the Fifa World Cup since 2010, Euro 2012, Baku 2015, as well as various football teams and some of the most important sporting events planned for next year.

What would happen if the Group’s technology should halt? As in the retail world, without a receipt the sale, a lottery win, or travel documentation would be lost, for this reason Custom develops, designs and distributes technology that is of fundamental importance and increasingly offers solutions with a proven track record over time and in the field for different, synergistic markets.

The Group is recognized on the international scene for setting the benchmark in design and creation of “retail solutions” for automation and innovation of services to the public. International experience and know-how acquired over time and in the field have allowed the Group to become the only organization today that can conceive, plan and produce everything internally, giving various markets a multi-sector offer that unites hardware, software and service.

“In this way Custom technology becomes an important symbol, a true ambassador aimed at representing the most advanced technology in 6 different yet synergistic and complementary markets”, states President and CEO Carlo Stradi.

“Technology is developed through people, who interpret and develop a need within a specific context. We want to divulge solutions to create value and support for our clients’ business, as well as for the final user.

We have concluded 3 acquisitions since January 2018 aimed at expanding the Group’s offering. We are working to enter another 3 fiscal markets that will be added to the 14 fiscal markets where we have already brought know-how and
technology. The focus is always on people”, says President and CEO Carlo Stradi. It is a company of people who work hard, aware that they are in a dynamic and continually evolving organization. People who gather information, reflect and act; good sense and proactive actions are links in the chain that unite different but completely complementary skills and professional abilities. No one can precisely quantify the hours, dedication and sacrifices made, because each individual knows and believes in the company and has put heart and soul into it, everyone bringing a “very personalized” contribution to their
work, resulting in HUMAN TECHNOLOGY CUSTOMIZED FOR PEOPLE able to “simplify and improve” everyday life.

It's an opportunity to share in reaching a universal audience who, although unaware, frequently come across Custom Italian Technology in daily life. A receipt, a ticket, at a self-service kiosk, at the ATM to withdraw cash, at the gas station, at the bar cash register, at the bike sharing service, on the ferry or on a cruise, on the freeway, at the parking meter while paying for car parking, a train ticket, a betting ticket, at the supermarket checkout, bill payment, a cinema, theater or museum ticket, in medical fields, etc. The Custom Group is behind all of these moments, offering hardware, software and service solutions.

Over 800,000 finished products completed in the last year, some with industrialization processes taking less than 6 months, over 120 people dedicated to R&D, 5 production plants (Italy, Romania, India, China and Brazil). An overall staff of 535 people, well designed products, cutting-edge technology and significant results recorded in all market sectors.

118,000,000 receipts printed in a year for just one out of their many clients in the retail industry; functional H24 products for Aviation in the principle airports worldwide, self service machines able to resist temperature fluctuations of over 60 degrees.

More than 33,000 lines of source code for some products that have marked the history of B2B sectors with over 29 international patents for the protection of Made in Italy. 4 companies dedicated to hardware and software acquired over time, aimed at increasing specialization in highly complex vertical markets; specific software technical skills that serve over 68 different countries.

“Communicating really means sharing, putting something in common with others”, concludes Alessandro Mastropasqua, “For this reason we have chosen to increase and widen the scope of the message, to present the results achieved through the developed solutions”. The event aims to create a true sounding board, informing the wider public, opinion leaders and sector operators with the intent to create technology awareness.

* Custom S.p.A., designs, develops and manufactures products under its own brands Custom and Fasy and Custom Made solutions for international operators;
* System Retail S.p.A., development and integration of software and hardware solutions for large-scale retail and mass distribution markets;
* Custom America Inc., distribution and pre and post-sales support for the North American market, Canada and Central and South America;
* Custom Production Europe s.r.l., manufacturing plant for Custom and Fasy brand products;
* Netrising s.r.l., Apps design and development, Augmented reality and integrated communication projects on social media;
* Bizeta Retail Solution s.r.l., Development of integrated HW SW projects and turnkey services for retail, luxury;
* Maxima s.r.l., development of integrated HW SW projects and turnkey services for retail, fashion, and mobile solutions development for store management;
* Power2Retail s.r.l., multi-format, multi-platform and multi-payment native software solutions for large Retailers. Customizable, reliable and fast software
solutions both online and offline;
* Nitere Ltda., Production and distribution of the range of Custom solutions for the South American market;
* Italiana Macchi s.r.l., Development and production of electronic scales and weighing systems.

Founded in Parma in 1992 by Carlo Stradi and Alberto Campanini, with 25 years of business experience in innovation and success. Today the company is a world leader in designing and manufacturing printing and scanning mechatronic solutions, offering a wide range of products for automation services to the public. 6 B.U. in vertical markets for strategic diversification.

Communications Manager: Alessandro Mastropasqua
Tel. 0521.680111 - Cell +39 334 6896730 - a.mastropasqua@custom.it
info@custom.biz - www.custom.it / www.customlife.com


15 05 2018

HR Disruption: The Digital Evolution in Human Resources
Le Fonti’s CEO Summit in Milan is The Venue to Learn More about Workforces’ Futures in Italy and Abroad.

In an age of digital disruption, technology is transforming every aspect of a company including employee recruitment and managing a 21st-century workforce. In order to keep up the evolution, HR and business leaders can no longer operate in their old paradigms.  A CEO Summit was held on the topic and organized by Le Fonti in Milan on March 9th 2018.  WEIE was at the event to cover the summit and is pleased to provide you with a brief summary and complete transcript of the event. 

The participants at the summit included the emcee and 3 panelists:







                                       RAGU BHARGAVA (RB) – CEO, GLOBAL UPSIDE, USA


                                       GABRIELE FAVA (GF) – PARTNER, FAVA & ASSOCIATES, ITALY


                                       VINCENZO NUNZIATA (VN) – CEO, PROMAGROUP, ITALY


Each participant contributed from a different angle with suprising and intuitive remarks. Each comes from a different business area and this made the summit even more interesting and satisfying to the audience: Global Upside (Services), Fava & Associates Law Firm, Promagroup (Auto components).  Below is the transcript with abbreviations for each of the participants as listed above.


DR: Today we will be talking about human resources and its recent evolution not only in Italy but all around the world.  It’s a disruptive phase concerning the degree to which digital evolution is impacting on human capital.  Journalists around the world have been referring to the Gig economy, a term used to discuss the changing trends in labor, a market which is being impacted by the growing independence of the labor force from intermediaries, and how the digital evolution is changing productive processes while the roles which companies have been adopting to define those processes are also changing.


DR: Today we shall be talking about this and more with our panelists and we shall start with our first panelist, Ragu Bhargava, CEO of Global Upside.  They’ve referred to me that you are an extremely optimistic manager and that you are not afraid of any challenges in the workplace.  They have told me that you believe there is apparently no problem that cannot go unsolved in the workplace.  Is that correct? (agreed)

So, Mr. Bhargava how is the world of human resources changing and what are the challenges which lie ahead of you?


RB: First and foremost, we cannot deny the importance of reaching continuous growth through an increase in our turnover, as is and has been the case with the majority of companies around the globe.  What has been changing is the workforce overall, whose evolution is moving from a traditional, loyalty-based relationship with the employer to one which has been defined through the Gig economy as a relationship where the employee is not necessarily looking to develop a long-term relationship with the employer, or for the so-called job for a lifetime, but remains .  The new generation of employees, the  so-called millenials and those who will be coming after them, are changing the expectations perceived by employers.  Millenials have new requirements which cannot be overlooked by the employer and which have radically changed compared to those we had when we were 20 or 30 years old.

Actually, the fact that the “millenial” employee is so flexibly mobile and not tied down to work in a particular location is certainly an advantage for the potential employer when recruiting.  An employer will certainly benefit from the fact that the potential employee knows no boundaries, so a company based in Milan can seek out talent based in the United States or anywhere in the world and viably consider relocation as an option.  The possibilities that a potential employee says no to an international offer diminish considerably.  At the same time, however, employers must be aware of millenials’ needs and while it is not necessarily a disadvantage, both parties need to adjust to the new relationship.


DR: Moving on from a strictly international perspective, let’s talk about the Italian market:   Mr. Fava (Fava & Associates), we would like to address to you the first question about what is happening to our country in terms of changes in legislation related to human resources. As technology and the workforce grow together and become ever more interdependent, they also need to be followed more assiduously, particularly with regards to their legislation.  In Italy, we have introduced smart working in businesses and have now also ratified the EU privacy law for the workplace.  How have these two new evolutions of the workplace impacted on our society?


GF: Hello, thank you and good evening.  These are really important initiatives for today’s workforce and have completely changed the legal, human resources, and labor market panorama in general.  Smart working could be defined the new frontier of labor because it correctly attributes the time workers should spend towards actually working and the time they should dedicate outside of the workplace, in other words a proper balance between the workplace and spare time.  There is still a lot that needs to be accomplished because the legislator has only laid down the guidelines about smart working to which employers’ future decision-making on the part of companies should adhere. Legislators are well-aware that they are not in a position to interfere in the decision-making process which is entitled to the employer. The EU privacy law is extremely important because it has completely revolutionized the labor market determining a priori and not ex ante the organizational models referring to the labor market which have been adopted by companies, both larger industries and smaller SMEs.  This topic is being studied intensely by the legal industry given that it will enter into force in the month of May. We are doing our best to provide our recommendations to employers about how best to deal with the new legislation.  A strategic and preemptive approach has been adopted because as of May 25th, 2018 the legislation will indeed be adopted and the aforementioned models will need to be analyzed more carefully.    The fact of the matter is that the organizational models have led us to understand that legislators have made sure that they have contextualized and enacted the norms with respect to the needs of employers and the labor market overall.   Norms, which in any case need to be improved as with any form of legislation, but which will depend on how companies and workers will be making those norms effective right from the start and not a situation in which legislation is approved today and is applicable in 5 years-time. Norms need to be approved today for today’s needs, especially those of Italian entrepreneurs not just in larger industries but also SMEs because they are the ones which will be doing the hiring.


DR: We can’t even imagine where our children will be working and what they will be doing in 5 years, let alone 10 years. I can only imagine the difficulty of the Italian legislator in attempting to follow these changes, so I’m sure you have a lot of work that lies ahead of you.

DR: Vincenzo Nunziata, CEO of Promagroup, an automobile parts producer and supplier, an Italian excellence is our next panelist.  Are you worried about the US duties on foreign-sourced parts which hopefully will not directly impact specific products as may be threatened by President Trump in the industry.  Nonetheless, we were keen to understand how you are handling the challenges of digital innovation, what’s the impact in your industry and if, in any way, what is happening is an opportunity for you in your search of personnel.


VN: Good evening.   In order to better answer your question, I’d like to introduce to you our company: we are a tier 1 automotive parts supplier (in the EU scale of OEM suppliers) and work in the EMEA, NAFTA and LATAM regions.  From my point of view, I can provide you with a technical analysis.  We constantly look for candidates which have different skill sets. For example, looking at data sets in the automotive industry comparing two periods 1992-1997 and 2010-2015 (a data set including 2016 and/or 2017 would have been more appropriate), we can consider the fact that in the first period, out of 100 workers, 40 were qualified (mostly in technical roles). Today the ratio is 80, thanks to the evolution of the robotics industry, even though in the automotive parts subsector, the ratio is 60.  It is just to give you an idea that we are constantly looking out for qualified personnel because we are always going to be interested in working with personnel capable of operating complex machinery and not just a simple worker. A lot of problems and challenges facing companies in our industry are related to training.  We have 24 productive sites, in 3 global commercial areas, 3200 workers, and I strongly believe that Italy has a very strong training methodology.  The Italian university graduate is certainly at a much higher level in terms of worker quality compared to other graduates from other regions.  We still have issues about the public sector working to build training models for companies, particularly in our industry.  The public sector should not be considered the only source of training for workers which provides specific training in a particular industry like the automotive parts industry.  We shouldn’t really agree with the assertion that jobs are only available to engineering graduates: mechanical and technical trade school graduates with experience and technical knowledge in the industry are also being sought by our company.   For this reason, we are in the process of building an academy with a group of Italian companies. The objective is to prepare students with the knowledge and know-how of what companies are looking for in the real-world marketplace.  This will be a topic of organizational disruption. The qualifications and experience requested by plant managers will change too.  Overall, our organization will need to adopt to the needs of society and its technological evolution.


DR: The Academy is an interesting topic, especially in consideration of the difference between demand and supply in some companies who can’t even fill certain roles, while in the South of Italy you have abnormally high unemployment levels amongst the youth, so apparently something isn’t working.

I wanted to address this question to Mr. Bhargava and also ask him about the global workforce and what he thinks about the fact that employees are emigrating.   We believe it’s a factor contributing to the decline of the economy, contributing to the talent drain, but at the same time we also understand that they have indeed become part of the global workforce and that this is the reality that we need to cope with. What can you say to this regard?


RB: There are certainly opportunities and drawbacks with the existence of a global workforce. As mentioned, talent can be sought around the world and newly-hired employees are then instrumental in providing economic stimuli to the host country where they have relocated.  On the other hand, the talent drain is inevitably the drawback, but only initially.

The talent drain is detrimental if only flowing in one direction, as it has been up to now, from home country to host country.  The case of the United States is perhaps the most eloquent. What we have been realizing today is that once a worker has contributed his part to the branch or headquarters of a host-country based company, perhaps after 5-10 years, the new tendency is for him/her to return to his home country.  This is especially true for growing home-country economies which inevitably tend to create incentives for a relocated workforce to come back and contribute to their economic success.  When resources move both towards the host country and subsequently towards the home country, the phenomenon becomes an opportunity to the employer and this newly-created opportunity is certainly emblematic of what the global workforce has to offer today and, especially, what its evolution has had to offer over recent years.


DR: A very open approach indeed.  Mr. Fava, I wanted to ask you about the term which Mr. Bhargava referred to in his discussion, flexibility, which has an important connotation in the world of Human Resources.  As the digital evolution continues to impact the labor market, as we have attempted to discuss during our roundtable tonight, in what way have companies lacked in flexibility, and that what might work abroad, notwithstanding what was declared by Mr. Bhargava, has not worked in Italy. Where and in what way have Italian companies remained resistant to change, also perhaps because of the difficulties they have had in understanding the opportunities available to them from the digital evolution.



GF: That’s a great question.  Well in Italy with the introduction of the academy as discussed by Mr. Nunziata is certainly a topic which will allow students the opportunity to learn about the real-world problems.  Nobody is there to tell them what’s happening in the real world are and very often they are at a loss to keep up with the changing roles in the labor market, a market subject to continuous and dynamic changes.  New skills will need to be learned not just through public sector initiatives but also in partnership with the private sector.  The academy is therefore an excellent initiative to allow students to be prepared and to learn about the new trades growing as a result of the digital evolution.  Industry 4.0 is another topic which is often scaring persons into thinking that jobs will be lost and that our destiny is to become similar to “cyborgs”. The fact of the matter is that technology, if governed and managed correctly, is an important instrument to improve professional worker performance in the workplace.  Jobs will change and certain roles will disappear. For example, the role of the physically robust warehouse manager whose function was only to lift heavy objects no longer exists, since most warehouses are now almost entirely interconnected and by means of digital technology and their sophistication has become cutting-edge.  In other words, rather than relying on physical performance, companies will need to invest on training to keep up with the technological and digital evolution of our times.  That same training will allow workers the opportunity to learn how to manage the warehouse by managing the highly technological robots and mechanisms which have substituted the old-style warehouse manager.  The important thing is for companies not to feel subdued by technological innovation but to benefit from technology and make technology work for them according to their needs.  Companies will need to take on the challenges imposed by technology, adapting the changes to their specific needs.  This will certainly improve the competitiveness of companies not just domestically but also, and most importantly, around the EU and outside of the EU.  This will also lead to a coattail effect with regards to employment where substantial long-term and gratifying work opportunities will become available both in Italy and abroad.



DR: Let’s ask one last question to Mr. Nunziata.  How can Italy contribute to the Digital revolution?  We talked about the Industry 4.0 automation plan which our outgoing Italian Economics Minister Calenda has been working on and which has allowed companies to rebuild their machinery supply. Many companies might have considered the Industry 4.0 project as just a fiscal incentive but others are also benefiting from its measures and are beginning to reap the investment opportunities available which would have otherwise been lost.  For your company, your industry, for Italy as a whole, what do you think are the implications of this revolution?


VN: I attended Mr. Calenda’s speech in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Cassino last September 2017, announcing the Industry 4.0 plan, along with Minister Padoan and other top level FCA managers.  They announced that they had already reached the Industry 5.0 phase.  The automotive components industry has reached a very high level of technological development thanks to the fact that it is also highly labor-intensive.  Research and Development has been underway to improve productive processes to make automotive products highly competitive.  The Calenda Plan, introducing the Industry 4.0 strategy, is undoubtedly an excellent plan because it benefits companies that invest and as a means to reach company profitability. In my opinion, it is useless to provide economic incentives to companies who do not Invest, precisely because it does not contribute to profitability.  Italy has lost its competitive edge in the automotive market compared to other national producers.  Today, Sergio Marchionne, President of FCA, has demonstrated his efforts to help the Italian automotive market recover from recent years, as he mentioned during the presentation of the plan, contributing to its recovery with the sale of more than 1 million automobiles over 10 years.  Technological innovation, the Industry 4.0 plan and product innovation are not an option for our industry sector, where competition is quite fierce.  Trump’s protectionist approach on products in the industry has allowed him to take the international stage, but you should know that levels of protectionism in the industry occur often and around the world. The import duties that Trump is threatening to impose on the EU are not as high as those implemented in South American countries.  In Brazil, for instance, importers who do not buy domestically produced autos pay a 40% duty.  In Morocco, too, where we are involved with PSA, the automobile is being nationalized whereby 65% of the components need to be produced in the country. All of this is to say that the automobile industry is highly labor intensive: even today statistics show that for every 1 million autos produced, 800,000 workers are involved.  Spain is the second largest European producer of automobiles with just over 3 million automobiles manufactured with 2.5 million workers.  Germany and France are also keen to maintain local OEM production to benefit German and French workers in the industry.  Renovating and implementing technological innovation is fundamental to remain competitive internationally and as a means to preserve home country production levels.  We are certainly in favor of initiatives like the Industry 4.0 plan and need to move ahead regardless if what is proposed originates from national government policies or EU initiatives.  Ours is an industry with an eye on political economy and fiscal strategy measures from the public sector, but the real pragmatic efforts are being taken by companies themselves through hard work and planning.  The public sector should continue to keep our industry sector in mind when considering strategic economic plans.  Our last government has taken our industry sector further into consideration compared to the past, both for national and international economic policy measures, so we hope the next government will continue with the same approach.



09 05 2018

SEASIF Holding is Expecting Consolidated Corporate Earnings to Reach almost €1 Billion
Seasif Holding has over 140,000 customers, both institutional and private

Seasif Holding is an international “conglomerate” headquartered in Cyprus; the company structure consists of companies located in Italy, France, Switzerland, Albania, Romania, Serbia, Colombia and Dubai, which operate in various sectors including: fuel distribution, financial and insurance services, real estate investments and asset management, raw materials and the extraction of precious metals, offering a synergy of products and services dedicated to private and institutional investors.

Through a new tailor-made business approach, which responds to the needs of the market for innovative products, Seasif Holding has almost doubled the number of customers in the last 12 months.

It is a strategy that the Holding applies to all of the industry sectors in which it operates, and which has enabled the company to achieve the best results recorded since its foundation
2017 Real estate investments in France have generated a 14% Yield, much higher than the market average.

In the Italian fuel distribution sector, the subsidiary GIQ Petroli has signed important contracts with leading multinational transport and logistics companies, and with international retail groups offering direct services to customers.

The insurance company in Italy has witnessed a 100% increase in the number of subscribers, thanks to the innovative development of complete tailor-made policies, which have also been updated according by law for institutional clients. In the insurance sector constant annual growth rates have been registered within the group, with percentages ranging between 25-30 percent.
The mining activities and the refineries of precious metals have attracted the attention of international investment funds.

Franco Favilla, CEO of SEASIF HOLDING has personally congratulated the whole team: “I would like to congratulate my team and the entire group of branches of Seasif Holding for their excellent results.” Of course, the investments will continue and in 2018 the benefits of all ongoing projects will exceed expectations.

Seasif Holding has the financial means and the capacity to support its subsidiaries and expand its business in various sectors; this is supported by the fact that today the group has consolidated operational relationships with more than 140,000 customers who purchase its products and services and express satisfaction in the choice made.

All of this is possible thanks to the group’s measures to protect investors and customers from international speculation, often created during market transactions.

“Our important strength, as we have been mentioning for years now, is the inter-group operating synergies that have allowed us to create a suitable conservative formula for our investments and customers, which are used by structuring targeted consolidated activities”, announced Ing. Franco Favilla.

GIQ PETROLI SRL, carries out activities for the purchase and distribution of petroleum products, such as fuels and other commercial activities in the field, transport, storage and logistics services. In 2017, it registered important growth rates by conquering a market niche by basing its development formula on low administrative costs and customized services dedicated to institutional clients.

In the French real estate sector, Codicim and 2The Gate, have achieved important results with the acquisition, development and commercialization of office and residential buildings in 2017. In the next 12 months, we envisage acquiring and developing projects in the hotel industry. We hope to increase the volumes of our investments with qualified management and innovative formulas in order to bring higher yields compared to those currently applied on the market.

We are working towards the completion of the residential and offices towers of the Donna Towers project in Dubai, which will allow us to concentrate part of our development activities; in fact, this will be the operational headquarters used to provide technical, operational and IT support, improving services to international markets, especially in engineering and mining activities.

In the Donna Tower project, a €120 million capital investment has been made which has brought the Holding a net asset value of €250 million. In the coming years, €12 million in provisional yearly income is expected from asset and property management activities.

Last year, Seasif Holding has also invested in the real estate sector in Romania on the Black Sea.

“The main and essential part of Seasif Holding always was and will continue to be, the protection of the interests of its customers and investors, as an expression of gratitude for the trust placed in the Group.”, remarked Antoanela Chiritescu- COO of Seasif Holding.

“All of the Holding's subsidiaries have the proven capacity to achieve excellent results, and the most important message I can convey, is to continue to offer quality services and always try to improve wherever possible.”, concluded Ing. Franco Favilla.


20 04 2018

MobiWeb Awarded Excellence of the Year at the Le Fonti Awards Ceremony in Hong Kong



MobiWeb Awarded Excellence of the Year at the Le Fonti Awards Ceremony in Hong Kong


Hong Kong – April 20th, 2018. MobiWeb was awarded for Excellence of the Year Innovation & Leadership SMS Messaging Provider at the 40th edition of the Le Fonti Awards. The Awards ceremony was held at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in downtown Hong Kong on March 23rd 2018, recognizing leaders from around the world for their achievements in a wide range of industries.


«MobiWeb has been recognized because it is one of the leading global A2P end-to-end SMS messaging providers», said Mr. Guido Giommi, Le Fonti President and Founder, who added:

«Through one connection, enterprises connect to MobiWeb's carrier-grade platforms and unlock enterprise messaging delivery to 6+ billion subscribers of 1000+ mobile operators.

With an international presence and offices located in three continents, MobiWeb provides high quality telecommunication solutions to more than 2500 enterprises globally».


«I am honored to win this award. This achievement is the result of our hard work and our focus on growth and innovation in the enterprise messaging market», declared Mr. Peter Kappos, CEO of MobiWeb, who added that «successful management is more than growth. Vision, leadership, inspiring and motivating others, are even more important. It takes a lot of teamwork, inspiration, and good old-fashioned hard work to bring a company to global excellence. This award is an inspiration to continue progressing and disrupting the enterprise messaging industry with new innovative products».


Click below to view the entire video interview with Mr. Peter Kappos:



About MobiWeb

MobiWeb is a global A2P SMS messaging provider and the ideal partner for companies that require high quality SMS messaging services, meeting the most demanding enterprise requirements. Through MobiWeb’s omni-channel platform, enterprises are able to reach their customers through SMS, Voice, Push Notifications, Social Media and Chat Messengers among others, delivering improved user experiences. MobiWeb actively participates in the development of the mobile ecosystem as a GSMA associate member. www.solutions4mobiles.com


About Le Fonti


Le Fonti is a media company and an independent source of analysis on international business, finance, technology and world affairs, with editorial offices in London, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong. We deliver our information through a range of formats, including monthly and quarterly magazines, conferences, television, C-level summits, international fairs and awards ceremonies. www.lefonti.com    



Alexander Spirotis

+852 580 84070


14 04 2018

Europe’s Chance to Lead on Robotics and AI
Artificial intelligence could be either the best or the worst thing that ever happened...

Artificial intelligence could be either the best or the worst thing that ever happened to mankind. To prepare for the profound changes to lives and livelihoods that lie ahead, the European Union should start establishing rules to protect all Europeans – and give the rest of the world a model to follow.



BRUSSELS – At least since Mary Shelley created Victor Frankenstein and his iconic monster in 1818, humans have had a morbid fascination with man-made beings that could threaten our existence. From the American television adaptation of “Westworld,” which depicts an amusement park populated by androids, to the “Terminator” films, in which super-intelligent machines aim to destroy mankind, we often indulge the paranoid fantasy that our own technological creations might turn on us.


In Homo Deus, Hebrew University’s Yuval Noah Harari argues that existing technological advances have already put mankind on a path toward its own demise. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms that make better decisions than humans, and genetic engineering all imply that most human beings will be superfluous in the not-too-distant future.


At the Web Summit conference in Lisbon last December, the late physicist Stephen Hawking addressed the threats as well as the opportunities that lie ahead. “Success in creating effective AI,” Hawking said, “could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst.” The problem, he added, is that, “We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”


Despite their stark warnings about the possible implications of existing technologies, Hawking believed, along with Harari, that we still have time to shape the future for ourselves. The changes ahead will raise a number of pertinent questions for policymakers. What will the spread of robotics and AI mean for defense and security or the future of employment? And what rules can ensure that these innovations are collectively beneficial?


So far, mainstream political debate about these questions has been limited. That is not surprising: as we saw with animal cloning, politics tends to lag behind science. In the European Union, single-market regulations are often adopted years after the scientific breakthroughs that made them necessary. But when it comes to robotics and AI, we cannot afford to hesitate.


Fortunately, as Hawking pointed out, some European policymakers have already begun legislative work on this front. In February of 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of new rules governing AI and robotics. We are asking the European Commission to propose measures that will maximize the economic benefits of these technologies, while also guaranteeing a standard level of safety and security. Although I disagree with some of the proposals currently on offer, the fact that we are at least having a debate on the matter is a positive development.


While other countries are also considering new rules for robots and AI, the EU has a unique opportunity to take the lead. By acting now, we can ensure that the EU will not be forced to follow regulatory frameworks set by other countries. Ultimately, global rules will be required; and Europe has a chance to set the standard for what they should look like.


For starters, we will soon need a specific legal status for robots, so that we can determine who is liable for any damage they may cause. Moreover, as the Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has warned, robotics and advanced algorithms will likely eliminate many jobs. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that five million jobs across 15 developed countries will be lost to automation by 2020.


Given that ongoing changes in the means of production have already kick-started this trend, Gates and some in the European Parliament have suggested that robots be taxed to pay for human services. Whether that is the best solution is now the topic of much debate; but, clearly, some kind of compromise will need to be made.


Robotics and AI will also raise profound ethical issues for liberal politicians, particularly with respect to privacy and safety. Fortunately, there is a broader political consensus on this issue than on taxation. The European Parliament has proposed a voluntary code of conduct for engineers and others working in the field of robotics. Ethical as well as legal standards are needed to ensure that robots and related technologies are designed with respect for human dignity in mind.


Lastly, the European Parliament has called on the European Commission to consider creating a new EU-level agency for robotics and AI, to provide public officials with technical, ethical, and regulatory expertise. To my mind, this would be a sensible step forward, given that an estimated 30% of the world’s leading companies will employ a chief robotics officer by 2019.


We can be almost certain that today’s technological advances will have a profound effect on our lives and livelihoods, akin to a new Industrial Revolution. By establishing regulations and standards now, the EU can ensure that all Europeans will benefit from the coming changes, rather than be engulfed by chaos.



14 04 2018

Good Times at Last
Despite today's unprecedented political risks and large-scale geopolitical realignments...

Despite today's unprecedented political risks and large-scale geopolitical realignments, key economic indicators from around the world are looking better than they have in years. But whether global economic growth exceeds 4% this year will depend on central bankers' ability to strike the right monetary-policy balance.


LONDON – In February 2017, I wrote an optimistic commentary called “The Global Economy’s Surprising Resilience.” The piece came as a surprise to those who saw only bleak prospects for Western countries, not least the United States, where US President Donald Trump had just been inaugurated.


Now, nearly a year later, my three decades of experience in global financial markets leads me to believe that the economic situation is not quite as straightforward.


On the positive side, the half-dozen cyclical indicators I listed last year remain strong, and some have even strengthened further. One key indicator is South Korea’s monthly trade data. The country’s exports grew by 15.8% in 2017, the largest increase since 1956, when it began reporting these data. Moreover, export growth occurred even as Trump threatened to withdraw from the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and stoked tensions with North Korea – a powerful rebuke to those who have predicted retrenchment of global trade.


As I suspected a year ago, the slowdown in global trade in past years probably stemmed from the euro crisis and falling commodity prices, and would thus prove temporary. Now that those two events are behind us, global trade appears to have picked up.


Of course, much will depend on whether trade momentum can be maintained. Although South Korea’s export performance in December was impressive, it fell slightly short of forecasters’ expectations. We will have to wait and see if it remains strong in 2018.


Another key cyclical indicator is reflected in monthly Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) surveys for manufacturing and services, which include underlying sub-indices for inventories and sales. Here, the news is remarkable: PMI survey results in many countries around the world are the strongest they have been in years.


That includes the US, where I have found the Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index to be consistently accurate and indicative of underlying realities. It also includes the eurozone, where PMI-survey data have reached their highest levels since before 2000.


Even the United Kingdom’s monthly PMI surveys are showing momentum, though not as much as in other Western countries, most likely owing to the Brexit effect. If the global economic environment continues to improve, the UK might luck out in its timing for withdrawing from the European Union, notwithstanding the growth-weakening effects that Brexit will surely have.


Crucially, key indicators for China are looking good, too, particularly in terms of long-term growth in services and domestic consumption. I continue to believe that these two factors will prove immensely consequential not just for China, but for the rest of the world as well. Many countries want to export more than just commodities and manufacturing inputs to China, and companies around the world are jockeying for access to China’s massive domestic market.


All told, forecasts projecting global GDP growth of 4% or more for 2018 seem credible. I would not be surprised to see sell-side forecasters lifting their numbers even further in the next two months. The International Monetary Fund almost certainly will at its annual spring meeting, if not sooner.


So, what’s not to like in the global economic picture for 2018? For starters, as a veteran of financial markets, I am usually wary of a strong consensus. While many oft-cited concerns in 2017 turned out to be unwarranted, that doesn’t mean economic risks have disappeared.


In contrast to a year ago, people are increasingly acknowledging that the global economy is stronger than they had thought. But if growth continues to accelerate, the US Federal Reserve might end up hiking interest rates more than markets anticipated. And the other major central banks, particularly the People’s Bank of China, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan, might reverse their exceptionally loose monetary policies.


To be sure, if the global economy is truly returning to relatively high and stable growth, monetary-policy tightening need not be harmful – and may even be less harmful than waiting for stronger evidence of inflation to emerge. Nevertheless, the world’s major economies have enjoyed remarkably generous monetary policies for a decade – and for far longer in Japan’s case. At the end of the day, no one really knows what the consequences of higher interest rates will be.


For my part, I suspect that productivity growth will accelerate in a number of places, which would justify monetary-policy adjustments and make rising interest rates more tolerable. But that is just a hunch, based on my reading of tentative wage and productivity data in the UK and the US, among other places.


One final concern is that, while not having gone full circle, the global mood has shifted from fear about political risks to obliviousness, even though many such risks still loom large. The potential fallout from poor US leadership in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula cannot be ignored; nor can the long-term challenges still confronting Europe. I have long believed that, at least for financial investors, it is better for everyone to be worried about everything than for a small minority to be worried on everyone else’s behalf.


Still, and more important, as long as financial conditions don’t tighten excessively as a result of today’s cyclical strengthening, global economic performance for the rest of this decade could end up being more robust than anyone would have imagined just a few years ago.



14 04 2018

The World Economy in 2018
In the tenth year since the start of the global financial crisis...

In the tenth year since the start of the global financial crisis, the US economy reached a new high-water mark, and the global economy exceeded expectations. But whether these positive trends continue in 2018 will depend on a variety of factors, from fiscal and monetary policymaking to domestic politics and regional stability.


STANFORD – All major macroeconomic indicators – growth, unemployment, and inflation – suggest that 2017 will be the American economy’s best year in a decade. And the global economy is enjoying broad, synchronized growth beyond what anyone expected. The question now is whether this strong performance will continue in 2018.


The answer, of course, will depend on monetary, fiscal, trade, and related policies in the United States and around the world. And yet it is hard to predict what policy proposals will emerge in 2018. There are relatively new heads of state in the US, France, and the United Kingdom; German leaders still have not formed a governing coalition since the general election in September; and the US Federal Reserve has a new chair awaiting confirmation. Moreover, major changes in important developing economies such as Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil have made the future outlook even murkier.


Still, we should hope for the best. First and foremost, we should hope that synchronized global growth at a rate of just under 4% will continue in 2018, as the International Monetary Fund projected in October. Growth not only raises incomes, but also makes vexing problems such as bad bank loans and budget deficits more manageable. As former US President John F. Kennedy famously said in an October 1963 speech in which he promoted his proposed corporate and personal tax reductions, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”


For my part, I predict that the global recovery will continue, but at a slightly slower growth rate of around 3.5%. The two most obvious risks to keep an eye on will be Europe, where a cyclical upturn could stall, and the oil-rich Middle East, where tensions could flare up once again.


Second, let us hope that the Fed, guided by the steady hand of its new chair, Jerome “Jay” Powell, will continue or even accelerate its monetary-policy normalization, both by raising its benchmark federal funds rate, and by shrinking its engorged balance sheet. And we should hope that economic conditions allow the other major central banks, especially the European Central Bank, to follow suit.


On this front, I predict that the major central banks will continue to normalize monetary policies more gradually than is necessary. The biggest risk here is that markets may try to test the Fed under its new leadership, for example, if inflation rises faster than anticipated.


Third, let us hope that the Republican tax package will, if enacted, deliver on its promise of increased investment, output, productivity, and wages over the coming decade. Here, I predict that the legislation will pass, and that investment in the US over the next few years will be relatively higher than if no action had been taken.


To be sure, whether investment will rise from its currently subdued level will depend on many other factors than the corporate-tax rate. But the tax package can still be expected to boost output, productivity, and wages. The question is not if, but when.


If the full effects of the legislation are not felt before the 2018 or 2020 elections, that lag could prove politically consequential. The biggest danger is that its benefits will be delayed, and that its key provisions will be reversed whenever the Democrats are back in power.


Fourth, let us hope that governments everywhere begin to address the looming crisis in public-pension and health-care costs, which have been rising for decades. As social programs become costlier, they crowd out government expenditures on necessities such as defense, while generating ever more pressure to impose higher growth-suppressing taxes.


Europe, in particular, must not let its cyclical rebound lull it into complacency. Many European Union member states still need to reduce their government debt, and the eurozone needs to resolve its “zombie bank” crisis. Beyond that, structural labor-market reforms of the kind French President Emmanuel Macron is pursuing would be most welcome.


Unfortunately, I’m afraid that progress on structural reforms will be sporadic, at best. The danger is that slow growth will not lead to sufficient wage gains and job creation to defuse the ticking time bomb of high youth unemployment in many countries. Another risk is that reform attempts could provoke a political backlash that would be harmful to long-term investment.


Fifth, let us hope that the eurozone can avoid a currency crisis. This will depend largely on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel can form a coalition government and restore political stability to Europe’s largest economy.


Sixth, we should hope that the EU and the UK can agree on a reasonable Brexit deal that will preserve fairly strong trade relations. The main risk here is that localized declines in trade could spill over and cause broader harm.


And, beyond Europe, let us hope that negotiations between the US, Canada, and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will result in an arrangement that still facilitates continental trade. For trade generally, the biggest risk is that the Trump administration could start a lose-lose trade dispute, owing to its understandable eagerness to help American manufacturing workers.


Seventh, let us hope that new policies targeting information and communication technology (ICT) strike the right balance among all stakeholders’ competing and legitimate concerns. On one hand, there is reason to worry about certain Internet companies’ concentration of market power, particularly in online content and distribution, and about the effects of new technologies on personal privacy, law enforcement, and national security. On the other hand, new technological advances could deliver immense economic gains.


It is easy to envision a scenario of too much regulation, or of too little. It is also easy to envision a large-scale public backlash against the major technology companies, particularly if poor self-policing or a refusal to cooperate with law enforcement leads to some horrible event.


Here, I predict that achieving an appropriate policy balance will take years. If some future event strikes an emotional chord, the public’s mood could swing dramatically. Ultimately, however, I suspect that competition and innovation will survive the forthcoming regulations.