The Implications of Tech Giant Microsoft’s Acquisition of Blizzard

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a leading company in “game development and interactive entertainment content publisher,” for $68.7 billion – which is the biggest gaming industry deal to date. Microsoft’s motives in this deal lie in the gaming industry being “the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today,” and its participation in developing metaverse platforms. After Facebook transformed into Meta Platforms to increase its efforts in virtual reality, other tech companies have now followed suit in placing bets on the metaverse. Microsoft acquiring Activision plays a key role in its involvement in the “metaverse arms race.” It will also bolster Microsoft’s venture to grow its gaming business across different platforms such as mobile, PC, console and cloud. 

Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, states that together with Activision, they will be able to “build a future where people can play the games they want virtually anywhere they want.” Activision has released some of the most successful and well known games on the market, including Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft. Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, notes that Activision’s “world class talent and extraordinary franchises,” married with “Microsoft’s technology, distribution, access to talent, ambitious vision, and shared commitment to gaming and inclusion will help ensure [their] continued success in an increasingly competitive industry.” 

            Although the prospect of furthering the metaverse and making games more accessible to individuals on more platforms are positive in the advancement of the tech sector, there are antitrust and competition hurdles that Microsoft must jump in order for this acquisition to succeed. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Britain’s antitrust regulator, acknowledges that Microsoft is disposed to be successful in cloud gaming given its leading cloud platform in Azure, PC operating system in Windows OS, and Xbox. However, these strengths combined with ownership of Activision’s games “could damage competition in the nascent market for cloud gaming services.”  If Microsoft refuses competitors’ access to Activision’s games, the gaming industry could be struck with serious damage – which is why the deal requires approval in several major jurisdictions including the United States, China and the EU. 

            The antitrust concerns lie greatly in how the deal would impair game console creators such as Sony and entrants to the new market of gaming subscription services and cloud gaming. Open competition would be severely harmed if Microsoft gains the ability to refuse rivals access to Activision games or provide them on worse terms. The Phase 1 investigation conducted by the CMA requires Microsoft to address its concern over the control the company would gain over popular games post-acquisition. If Microsoft fails to offer remedy solutions, the CMA would initiate its Phase 2 wherein an independent panel would carry out an in depth analysis and examination of competition implications. 

            In response, Microsoft released a statement in an attempt to appease regulators by saying that Call of Duty would not become an exclusive Microsoft Xbox game and would continue to be available on other companies’ game consoles. The company wants to remain committed in its mission to provide people with “more access to games, not less.” Analysts believe that Microsoft should provide specifications around these exclusivities in writing to demonstrate more credibility and legitimacy in its pledges. 

            Microsoft has painted a very exciting picture of its desire to “embrace choice,” for games to “reach the billions of players where they are and no matter what device they play on,” through this expansion. Their Game Pass subscription option and cloud game streaming technology to bring more games to mobile platforms would allow the company to “open up mobile gaming, create new distribution opportunities for game developers outside of mobile app stores and deliver compelling and immersive experiences for players using the power of cloud.”  However, the stricter antitrust regulations, especially on tech giants, stretches out the period of time between the announcement of a deal and its completion – thus increasing the threat of the transaction disintegrating. Microsoft’s response to the antitrust concerns over its acquisition will set an important example and no doubt offer guidance to future mergers and acquisitions, especially in the tech industry where monopolies are scrutinised to prevent giants from gaining and abusing unfettered power. 

Truss’s first act as UK Prime Minister promises to save the public, but she threatens the value of the pound

Lizz Truss enters no. 10 Downing Street during high-stakes wars; both within her party, and on the Eastern borders of Europe. However, her first battle as prime minister will be tackling the energy bill crisis. This daunting task is made ever more difficult by Truss’s commitment to a low tax economy.

The cost of a cap on energy bills depends largely on its form. A targeted plan to help the most vulnerable households, such as £650 for those on means-tested benefits, would be cheaper. However, it would be difficult to implement quickly and effectively and it would leave families just above the threshold in a precarious position. A blanket tax break would benefit richer households with disposable income, and would cost substantially more.

Furthermore, the cost of the energy cap will likely be increased by factors outside of Truss’s control. Putin has taken a stance against western sanctions by extending the closure of Nord Stream 1. This will increase the price of gas as well as the cost of Truss’s relief plan. As well as this, a relief package of this scale will increase public spending in a demand charged inflation spike, spurring a further rise in interest rates.

With a public debt to GDP ratio of 96%, investor confidence in the UK is low. Couple this with extensive high-interest rate borrowing, Truss will need to provide extensive assurances on payment plans in order to attract foreign investment. However, as of yet all she has done is ensure that taxes will be slashed.

If Truss decides to increase taxes, either approach will be politically difficult. A general tax would be a rejection of her low-tax promise, which could be seen as a return to the laissez-faire approach to policy integrity endured during the Johnson administration. However, a long-term repayment of tax breaks could cut vulnerable households adrift, which would be detrimental to the economy.

With a worryingly high cap on costs, and no real plan to raise funds for repayments, investor confidence is at a worryingly low level. On Monday, Shreyas Gopal of Deutsche Bank claimed the UK could be on a “balance of payments crisis”. Although unlikely in a G7 economy, the risk of a balance of payments crisis is no longer negligible. Therefore, in order to attract foreign investment and fund her relief package, Truss will have to depreciate the value of Sterling substantially, with Deutsche Bank claiming that a devaluation of 30% may be required to attract foreign investment into Britain.                                                                                                                                                                      

Interview with Deirdre McIlvenna – Partner at the Maples Group

Introduction

Over the past five decades, the Maples Group has become a global market leader in the provision of corporate legal services. The Group has 16 offices across the globe with operations in Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East, as well as the Americas and Caribbean. Launched in 2006, the Irish office has become one of the largest in the Maples network. Speaking with funds and investment management partner, Deirdre McIlvenna, the Trinity Business Review team learn about a career in corporate law, the funds industry in Ireland, and Maples’ Professional Internship Programme.

The Maples Group  

With over 440 professionals in its Irish office, the Maples Group has a wide range of practice areas, including Corporate, Data, Commercial and Technology; Employment; Finance; Financial Services Regulatory; Funds and Investment Management; as well as Litigation; Property; Projects and Infrastructure and Tax. The wide range of services enables the firm to tailor its offering to the unique requirements of its clients. However, the focus of the firm is directed at funds and investment management, as well as finance and corporate, reflecting the strength of the Irish financial market. Deirdre notes that the firm is increasingly advising on sustainable finance and renewable investment projects within each of these core practice areas.

The Maples Group also prides itself at being at the forefront of innovation in legal service delivery for its clients. Deirdre recognises that ‘delivering legal services efficiently is a critical priority’ in an ever-changing technological landscape. By leveraging a wide range of innovative legal technology tools and techniques across its practice areas, Maples can deliver its services in a cost-effective and productive manner, ensuring greater value for its clients.

Deirdre is of the view that the unique selling point of the Maples Group is that it is a ‘genuine international business’, serving numerous international clients. This global reach brings crucial perspective and comprehensive expertise to the firm. Maples strives to provide time-zone convenient legal advice and ancillary services in regions where their clients are based. The firm also takes pride in a partner-driven knowledge culture, investing significantly in keeping up to date with all Irish, EU and International market developments which impact on its clients. This requires extensive planning as well as communication with relevant government departments, regulators, and industry associations on proposed legislation. Deirdre notes that ‘commercial awareness is very important’ and, according to its clients, this sets the Maples Group apart from other law firms. The firm places a huge amount of value in knowledge sharing, which is achieved through ‘Know How’ meetings and the support of the Professional Support Lawyer (PSL) team.

The Irish Funds Industry  

Ireland’s fund industry was established over three decades ago and has continued to grow, with net assets in Irish domiciled funds rising to €3.32 trillion in 2020. Investment managers and asset managers from all over the globe have sought to develop and expand their European distribution footprint through Ireland, motivated by our globally recognised skilled workforce and our ability to provide full access to the EU. As a result, the Irish office serves as an important European hub for internal clients doing business in and from Ireland.

This growth in the Irish funds industry has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the Irish economy. Deirdre comments that it has been ‘hugely rewarding’ to be part of this success. The Maples Group maintains strong connections and representations on various working groups, including Irish Funds, AIMA, and the American Chamber of Commerce. The firm is also in direct communication with the Central Bank of Ireland, being the governing body for Irish regulated funds, as well as the Department of Finance, on projects such as the Sustainable Finance roadmap.  

Deirdre observes that ‘no day is ever the same’ working in the Irish funds industry. In Ireland, each regulated fund is required to appoint regulated service providers, such as fund administrators and investment managers. In her role of legal adviser, Deirdre is in contact with these various service providers, as well as with auditors and tax professionals. This interaction with different people from diverse areas is something which Deirdre has ‘really enjoyed’ during her career. She says that ‘there is always something new and interesting taking place’ each day.’ 

Professional Internship Programme

Maples Professional Internship Programme is the firm’s ‘primary recruitment method for future trainees’ and provides ‘an excellent platform for those interested in securing a training contract’ with the firm. Last June, the Maples Group welcomed 29 students into its Irish office and looks forward to seeing many of these interns return to the firm as trainees in future years.

The Programme has been thoughtfully structured to ensure that interns gain an invaluable insight into life as a corporate lawyer at the firm. It includes a mix of training; department, committee, and global talks; various workshops, Q&A sessions, and several social activities, ensuring interns are exposed to a range of diverse and interesting work. Interns are offered the opportunity to work alongside Partners, Associates and Trainees in one of the firm’s core practice areas, namely, Corporate, Employment, Finance, Funds & Investment Management, Litigation, Property and Tax, and are paid for the duration of the placement. Deirdre is of the view that ‘people are our greatest asset’ and as such, ‘recruitment and retention of talent is a core part of our business strategy’. A law degree is not a precursor to applying to the Maples Group and Deirdre observes that some of the firm’s best lawyers have undertaken different courses. The firm looks for applicants who are good team players with strong communication skills and ‘a curious mind’. 

Further Information

Applications for the Maples Group’s Professional Internship Programme close midnight 7 February 2022.

Website: https://maples.com/en/careers/students-and-graduates/internships

The Story of Diglot: A Language Learning Start-Up

Diglot dispatches with traditional methods of language education and makes language-learning fun, engaging and effective for beginners. The company creates books that weave foreign words into English sentences so that readers can learn languages while reading classic novels like The Great Gatsby, Sherlock Holmes or Pride and Prejudice. Evan McGloughlin and Cian McNally, Diglot’s co-founders, discuss the story behind the language-learning start-up.

The Team

Evan and Cian live five minutes down the road from one another in Skerries. They played rugby together as children and, after going their separate ways for a few years, found themselves back together again as teenagers in the Institute of Education. They both went on to study at Trinity – Cian in psychology and Evan in neuroscience – where the idea of Diglot began to form towards the end of their penultimate year. The team came up with the business name as well as the concept of their first book, Learn Spanish with Sherlock Holmes, which was published in June 2020. By the end of the year, they had launched the Diglot website and sold over 500 books.

Cian has always been interested in language-learning; he recalls how one evening he began talking with a linguist at a party, who told him about research projects taking place in South Africa. These projects showed that the best way for children to learn languages in a classroom setting is for a teacher to speak in different languages. Following on from further research into the study, Cian found that the best way to learn languages is to read novels that mix languages together. However, the problem is that this method of language-learning is not available to beginners. Cian sees language-learning as simple for intermediate or advanced learners; all they must do is read a book or watch a movie which ‘will get you insanely good, insanely quick’. Meanwhile, beginners must study lists of vocabulary, memorise grammar rules, and read small sentences instead of stories. This led to the idea of Diglot, which aims to bridge this gap and cut out the textbook form of language-learning. As Evan says, Diglot is about ‘making language learning accessible to people who maybe traditionally do not like language learning’ by allowing them to acquire language subconsciously through reading a book.

Where They Are Now

The Diglot team spent the past five months in Spain, where they were able to keep their burn rate low whilst delving into Spanish culture. The base location of the company is subject to change depending on different programmes and projects. As Evan says, Diglot is a ‘very multicultural company so it makes sense for us to travel around the place’. Cian agrees that ‘we can be anywhere in the world working away, which is a real privilege’.

There are ‘a lot of pieces to put together’ in creating a Diglot book. The novels Diglot use are all public domain and out of copyright, which makes the script easily accessible online. The text is sent through an in-house algorithm, which was developed by Diglot’s Head of Research and Development, Oisín Morrin. This produces a script weaved with foreign words, with the percentage of weaving dependent on the difficulty level of the book. This script is then sent to a translator who restores the nuance and ‘beauty of the language’ and is edited and proof-read several times before being sent back to the team. The design process is usually carried out by Evan, who arranges the chapter headings and grammar lists in accordance with a prescribed template. This script is then sent to a cover designer, who designs the front cover and back page of the book. Once this is completed, the script and cover are uploaded to a book publisher who manufactures and distributes the book.

In terms of marketing and promotion, the Diglot team are of the view that they were ‘pretty lucky early on’. The books got ‘unbelievable promotion’ from the ‘bookstagram’ community on Instagram. This community is made up of influencers with between 20,000 and 100,000 followers that share books on their account. This created a ‘very positive-sum relationship’, as Diglot were able to get great promotion and the bookstagram influencers were able to get engaging and innovative content.

In February 2021, Diglot secured a spot in Tangent LaunchBox Accelerator, a competitive summer programme run by Trinity which provides mentorship, funding and a collaborative environment to Trinity students with a start-up business. Evan says that the advantages of the programme are ‘insane and incalculable on multiple dimensions’. Although the team is awarded funding, this is ‘secondary’ to the connections and the network that they build. Not only were they able to get free legal advice that was ‘unbelievably beneficial’, but they were also able to access business mentors that they were able to consult with and talk to each week. As Cian notes, one person or one piece of advice can ‘fundamentally change your business’. The entrepreneurial environment provided by LaunchBox also had a positive impact on the Diglot team. Evan talks of the ‘constant positive reinforcement’ from being around like-minded people, reminding that ‘you can actually build something and have an impact on the world’. Cian agrees that having that support and group of friends has had a positive impact on his mindset and that ‘mindset is everything’ when it comes to running a start-up.

Evan says that one of the most challenging aspects of the start-up has been ‘figuring out leadership, how to manage people, and how to get the most out of people’. With 80 translators in over 20 countries around the world, leadership and management is ‘really important’ for the Diglot team. The style and tone of leadership plays into what the business represents and what it seeks to accomplish. It is important to manage people in an effective way but also in a way which enables them to excel, grow and learn. Evan identifies this as the ‘biggest challenge’, especially in the current online environment; organising people and managing relationships over Zoom is ‘challenging’ and ‘hard to get right’. When asked about the key success factors of the business, Cian recognises the importance of having software to manage people. The Diglot team utilises Notion, a project-management software which helps to take cognitive energy off the team. This has helped the company to automate all cognitive work and manage the multi-part production process at Diglot.

Plans For The Future

Diglot is expanding its book titles and languages every week. The team currently have books in Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin and Japanese in production. For the first time, a person will be able to pick up the Great Gatsby and at the same time pick up a few words of Japanese or Mandarin. As Evan says, ‘that is just not a thing that has existed up until now’. The Diglot team also plan to work directly with authors and weave their books in some exciting projects they have coming up. They also hope to expand into audio books, so that a person will be able to listen to their favourite story in English with foreign words weaved into the audio. The goal of the company is that a person will be able to bring any book, either fiction or non-fiction, and weave the book using Diglot’s system. That person would be able to nominate their language and difficulty level and then start reading from day one. It will be exciting to see how Diglot will continue to reimagine language learning and make it more accessible, engaging and fun for beginners.

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Welcome to Trinance

I am delighted to welcome you all to a new segment at Trinity Business Review, Trinance. This segment aims to introduce you to global markets and the general world of finance. Whether it is your first time reading about finance or you are a more seasoned reader, I am sure you will gain new insights you had not known previously.

Trinance will explore recent market trends and career opportunities as well as including student, alumni, and recruiter commentary. Finance is a bit odd in the sense that it tends to have a lot of acronyms and many words for the same thing, but you will soon come to tell which ones are the same. To make matters easier, I have compiled a list of five financial terms you should know and additional resources to help you keep up with the markets.

1. Time Value of Money

This concept means that a lump sum amount of money is worth more now than at a later point in the future. This is because said money has the opportunity to grow until you reach that point later in the future, as opposed to receiving the same lump sum later.

Of course, money can only grow through investing which will compound over time, which leads us to our next term.

2. Compounding

This process occurs when an investment’s appreciation (increase in price) is reinvested again. This appreciation can occur through interest accumulation (say interest earned on a savings account in a bank or other financial instruments). This process can repeat itself an unlimited number of times so it can lead to exponential growth over a sustained period.

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that compound interest is “the eighth wonder of the world”. The idea with compounding is to ensure your investment outpaces inflation which again leads us to our next term quite nicely.

3. Inflation

A very topical macroeconomic indicator right now, inflation is the increase in prices observed across the economy; this decreases the purchasing power of local currency at a specific moment in time. Most developed countries’ central banks set an inflation target of 2% per annum, including the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve (U.S. Central Bank), the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.

However, inflation is not as bad as it sounds and is actually healthy for the economic growth. Very low or negative inflation (deflation) would lead to consumers buying less because they anticipate falling prices, which make businesses earn less, which in turn may end up dismissing employees or cutting salaries to make up for these losses. All of this can lead to an alarming series of events very quickly as seen in the Great Depression of the 1930s and most recently in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. A small but steady increase in inflation causes the opposite of the deflationary effects mentioned above and keeps the economy ticking.

4. Debt

A sum of borrowed capital due to be repaid before a specific point in time. Regular interest repayments are also expected to be paid before the principal (lump sum borrowed) is paid back. Debt can be taken out by people, businesses and countries so these types of debt differ greatly. 

Many companies like to take out debt because it is tax-deductible. This means that it can ask the relevant tax authority for a tax deduction for that fiscal year because it has been responsible in repaying the interest on that debt. However, too much debt can also quickly spiral out of control; for example, Hertz, a car rental company, filed for bankruptcy in 2020 due to their inability to pay back debt worth $19 billion. It has managed to restructure its debt since then, but not every company who goes bankrupt due to excessive debt is that lucky.

5. Equity

Equity is the capital that belongs to the company’s owners and would be given to them if all the assets and debts were sold and repaid, respectively. This would occur if the company went into bankruptcy and had to be liquidated to be sold off to its debtors and creditors.

In accounting, this is equal to total assets minus total liabilities on the balance sheet. This capital is used for financing activities such as investing in a new research and development (R&D) project or purchasing new assets. Retained earnings (profits kept back from the previous accounting period) is another component of equity that may be used for future operations or to pay dividends to shareholders (company owners).

Resources for Further Learning

There are many fantastic resources to keep up with finance and as a Trinity student you get access to some of the world’s best financial journalism. The Financial Times and The Economist are free to read for Trinity students so you can log on to Stella Search to read The Economist and sign up to TCD’s FT license here.

Podcasts

  • FT News Briefing: fantastic summary of business news (10 minutes at most)
  • Numbers by Barrons: interesting markets recap by numbers (5 minutes at most)
  • The Economist Morning Briefing: current affairs round up (5 minutes at most)
  • Trinity SMF Podcast: great interviews with business leaders organised by Trinity’s very own SMF (1 hour at most)

Newsletters

  • Bloomberg Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day: daily morning setup
  • Bloomberg The Weekly Fix: the bond market
  • FT Unhedged: recent market trends
  • FT Due Diligence: mergers and acquisitions
  • FT Moral Money: sustainable investing

2022 FTxBocconi Talent Challenge

I would also recommend applying for the 2022 FTxBocconi Talent Challenge. I took part in the 2021 edition and found it brilliant. It is a fantastic competition that allows you to meet some of the FT’s best journalists and Bocconi’s leading business academics in the FT HQ that I recently had the chance to visit! You can apply here before the 24th November and feel free to get in touch with me with any questions.

Levelling Up the Labour Market and the Impact on Firms

Britain’s recent fuel crisis, owing more to a shortage of lorry drivers rather than fuel itself, symbolises the wedge between supply and demand for labour within the economy. While the fact that the number job vacancies in Britain between July and September rose to above one million for the first time could be due to a fall in migration since Brexit, a walk around Dublin – with vacancy signs in almost every shop or restaurant window – shows that this labour market shortfall might not be nation-specific.

Supply Shortages

While Ireland’s job vacancy rate is not as high as in other European countries like Belgium (4.2%) or the Netherlands (3.8%), it rose nonetheless in Q2 of 2021 to 1.1% (from 0.7% in Q2 of 2020). However, perhaps most concerning is the OECD’s recent report which suggests Ireland will not recover to pre-Covid unemployment levels until the middle of 2024, putting its labour market rebound among the worst in Europe. This is likely due to labour market tightness alongside a fall in the job finding rate, with those unemployed prior to Covid only returning to their job search now. Meanwhile, this is aggravated by a reshuffle of the employed, as many have reevaluated their career paths, or find out their jobs no longer exist. In fact, in Ireland, almost 30% of the hospitality sector have moved into other job roles since the pandemic began. Ultimately, the current shortage of workers, most acute in hospitality, healthcare and agriculture, is likely to have a large impact on firms and businesses. To solve this mismatch between supply and demand, it is helpful to further explore the causes of this situation.

Why So? 

Covid-19 gave workers a chance to re-evaluate their job roles and career paths. Despite the fall in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the rise in nursing applicants in England this year illustrates a re-evaluation of career prospects and perhaps a wish for some to enter more rewarding job roles since the pandemic began. Higher expectations of worker satisfaction has caused a huge shift in the labour market as people move away from jobs which do not suit their lifestyle. The fact that the catering industry is particularly vulnerable to shortages is not surprising given the unsociable hours that bar staff and chefs work alongside the heated and stressful kitchen environment for minimal pay. Similarly, despite the evident shortage of truck drivers plaguing Britain, the UK has 600,000 people with an HGV licence who do not drive for a living. This is largely due to the poor working conditions, the negative health impacts of lonely work away from home, and poor pay that truckers face; all these factors are pushing many out of the industry.

The roles that people are shifting out of were arguably always unpopular. However, only now after the pandemic – in an economic environment of rising inflation – has the bargaining power shifted towards the supply of labour within these struggling industries. This suggests that those working in these industries have been under-remunerated for their work; only now can they bargain for higher wages as supply becomes scarce.

The pandemic has also uprooted the housing market, with house prices in rural areas increasing as people sought more green space during the various lockdowns. This means that commuting times for workers are rising, adding another factor to account for when applying for and accepting jobs; this also affects their willingness to work in certain job roles. Indeed, jobs in industries such as catering often require late nights, which, in the absence of nighttime public transport to rural areas, becomes an issue for those living outside urban districts.

Finally, the transition to a high-skilled economy is also a factor impacting the supply shortages. The ability for individuals to shift from a low to a high skilled job role can be challenging, particularly if firms begin asking for too much from candidates. For example, in Ireland the requirement that a waiter have their HACCP qualification, alongside 1+ years of experience is often seen, which is a huge barrier to entry for new workers. The mismatch between workers who think they have the right skills for a job and employer expectations means that firms are oftentimes inadvertently worsening their own supply shortages.

What Does This Mean for Firms?

These barriers to entry for roles which are facing particularly acute shortages are only furthering the labour supply crisis. This means that firms could be more proactive in filling the shortages. This would be through accepting unskilled or newer workers into the industry and train them with the necessary skills for a role. Therefore, firms could work to improve training programmes and lower their own barriers to entry to reduce the shortage.

Perhaps the most obvious way to address this shortage would be to increase wages and add additional benefits, such as a scheme rewarding/providing bonuses to non-salaried workers who work over-time for a firm. However, this rise in costs for firms is likely to exacerbate the current period of rising inflation. While consumers are likely to feel the pinch of this cost-push inflation, a rise in general cost of inputs for firms, many of whom’s balance books are already struggling post-Pandemic, is likely to bring additional accounting challenges.

While increasing pay for workers will help to bring the labour market to a new, temporary equilibrium level, whether through seeking capital replacements for labour, using their staff more productively and efficiently (while also maintaining staff health and welfare), being willing to implement new training schemes or changing their business structure, firms need to use innovation and knowledge of their business environment and industry in order to react to this changing labour market.

The ever growing power of SpaceX in today’s space race

The space race has one clear dominator: SpaceX. Elon Musk’s competitor, Jeff Bezos, makes the claim that they “could end up with monopolistic control of US deep space exploration.” It is impressive how quickly the company has risen to the top, launching its own rocket into orbit only 13 years ago. Elon Musk has the ultimate goal of giving humans the means to live on other planets, with the current focus being Mars. The soaring cost of such a venture is what led Musk to found SpaceX and develop a “low-cost, reusable rocket capable of making multiple trips.” Falcon 9 now regularly commutes to the International Space Station, transporting both people and cargo. The focus now lies on developing and gaining clearance for Starship, the rocket that will be used to fulfil Musk’s goal of one day “establishing a human colony on Mars.”

How did SpaceX reach its Current Position?

The company’s financial plan, along with the reusable Falcon 9 rocket, have both been key to the success of SpaceX and its Starship venture. 

The intensive prioritisation of the low-cost and reusable criteria are the foundation of Falcon 9’s success. One of the most expensive parts of the rocket, its engine, is efficiently designed and created using 3-D printing and its boosts are made to be reused – which are both critical cost saving factors. It is estimated that SpaceX was able to decrease its costs tenfold by taking an alternative route from traditional government contracting. Instead, the company designed and manufactured its own rocket components, rather than outsourcing from suppliers, and took on testing risks itself, rather than relying on payments from NASA. SpaceX’s finance plan, in conjunction with Tesla, of having access to cheap capital has allowed the company to raise over $6.5bn from the private equity market due to the high valuation investors have given to Musk’s business.

SpaceX against Blue Origin

This funding advantage has become the source of some competitors’ complaints; they lack access to similar financial benefits, which they claim has stifled scaling and pushed them out of the market. One of SpaceX’s main competitors is Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. In 2012 – around the same time that Musk was still solving issues with his Tesla launch, and before he could concentrate on SpaceX- Bezos had grand plans for Blue Origin.

So how has SpaceX so quickly and indubitably outperformed Blue Origin? 

The most obvious and widely discussed answer to this question is SpaceX’s strict cost minimising objective. Any company purchase exceeding $10,000 has to be personally approved by Musk, whereas Blue Origin is “riddled with poor cost estimating.” Management consultants discovered that the two companies had very differing cultures and leadership styles. SpaceX has a highly motivated workforce with “relentless 24/7 operation with 80-hour workweeks.” The engineers do not complain about these conditions, but rather are inspired and result-focused. They may earn lower salaries than those at Blue Origin, but are rewarded with stock options for top performance. In contrast, Blue Origin is a “ghost town on weekends,” and engineers complain about the “rigid hierarchy,” which does not favour innovative ideas. There is also an unsustainable focus on speed, which prevents the company from properly addressing problems and finding the best solutions. The high involvement of Musk with his engineers and openness to unorthodox ideas has been a catalyst to the firm’s success.

There is clear rivalry between Bezos and Musk. In the race to bring Internet connection from space to Earth, Blue Origin recently challenged SpaceX’s application to modify its plan. SpaceX responded to this challenge by stating that the competitor’s track record “amply demonstrates that as it falls behind competitors, it is more than willing to use regulatory and legal processes to create obstacles designed to delay those competitors from leaving Amazon even further behind.” Amazon condemned Musk’s attitude towards regulations, asserting their perspective as: “rules are for other people, and those who insist upon or even simply request compliance are deserving of derision and ad hominem attacks.” 

The race to extend life on and explore space continues to advance, but also appears to be developing into a personal competition between two billionaires.

The Doyle Twins: Sustainable and Affordable Fashion

Over 30 million people around the world are registered on Depop; a ‘community-powered fashion ecosystem’ where users can buy and sell pre-loved clothing. 90% of these active users are under the age of 26, reflecting Generation Z’s interest in sustainable style and vintage fashion. Most Irish users will be familiar with The Doyle Twins, who pride themselves on being ‘sustainable as well as affordable’. In 2020, the account became one of the first verified Depop sellers in Ireland and has continued to grow in popularity with 39 thousand followers as of October 2021. Speaking with Isabel and Emily-Jane, Trinity Business Review gains insight into the story, success, and future of The Doyle Twins.

The Team

The Doyle Twins is managed by twins, Isabel and Emily-Jane, who became interested in vintage fashion in their teens. In 2018, the twins decided to clear out their wardrobe and sold some old items on their account. Within a few months, they found themselves regularly selling clothes on Depop and by 2019, the twins were buying with the ‘exclusive aim of promoting sustainable vintage fashion and selling for a profit on Depop’. It was initially the look of vintage clothes which sparked the twins’ interest in pre-loved fashion. However, as they became aware of the negative impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment, the twins committed to buying only second-hand clothes. Although they did not set out to build a business, Isabel and Emily-Jane soon recognised the business opportunity before them and began to consciously build their brand: The Doyle Twins. 

When asked about the popularity of Depop amongst young adults and students, the twins attribute the growth of the platform to a few things. Firstly, an increased awareness of the adverse impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment. Secondly, Isabel comments that there has been ‘a societal shift towards second-hand and vintage clothing being embraced as trendier’. Although people may have veered away from wearing charity shop buys ten years ago, now it is considered ‘the epitome of cool’. Isabella Vrana is a big style icon for the twins, and people often joke that they dress like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (which they take as a compliment!). Thirdly, the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged periods of lockdown have driven consumers towards online shopping platforms, especially Depop. Although these factors have contributed to the ‘natural development’ of the business, the key driver behind the success of The Doyle Twins is the team’s constant ambition and innovation.   

Where They Are Now

The Doyle Twins is currently based between the twins’ family home in Rathmines and their student accommodation on campus (which is conveniently located just around the corner from the post office). As both twins are in final year, Isabel in law and business and Emily-Jane in physiotherapy, they ‘try not to let the work build up’ by spreading it out evenly across the week. The divvying up of tasks depends on how busy the twins are; this flexibility highlights the brilliant teamwork which exists between the pair. When Isabel is working, Emily-Jane can fill in; and when Emily-Jane is on placement, Isabel can step up.  

In the start, they thrifted all their stock in Ireland. However, the restrictions to in-person shopping brought about last year forced the twins to alter their supply chain and now the business sources approximately 50% of its stock from the UK. The Doyle Twins has a structured system in place. All newly purchased and unlogged stock is stored in specific boxes on arrival. Most days the twins photograph new items together for the account. Once photographed and logged, these items are then moved to a separate box or rail. Once an item is sold, it is moved to the “to be posted” box before being sent off to its new wardrobe. Twice a week, one or both of the twins package and post the items of clothing. Usually, Isabel takes on the biweekly post office trips, whilst Emily-Jane manages the online activity of the business. However, the work often does not exceed an hour a day and the twins make sure to take the odd day off!

When asked about the impact Working From Home and Covid-19 has had on the business, the twins are of the view that the pandemic definitely had a positive impact on The Doyle Twins. Emily-Jane comments that the growth of the business can be directly related to people being forced to buy online as in-person retail closed. Nonetheless, when the economy began to re-open, the twins retained business and customers due to the strong brand they had established.

However, the business journey has not been without its challenges. Over summer 2021, the business faced ‘a period of tension’ when both twins moved out of home and away from the office. Emily-Jane was living full-time in Cavan and on placement in Monaghan; Isabel was living on the other side of the city working over 40 hours a week in an office job and ‘madly training’ for the national rowing championships (which her team won!). Despite the difficulties faced running the business during this period, the twins got through it and are now back together living on campus.

In light of the busy year ahead, the twins emphasise the importance of ‘having a routine’ and ‘good time-management’. When asked about the key factors to The Doyle Twins’ success, Isabel is of the view that their price point resonates strongly with buyers, especially students. They recognise that people may be dissuaded from buying sustainable fashion pieces by hefty price-tags, opting for cheaper and poor quality fast-fashion items. However, The Doyle Twins make sure to offer sustainable and high-quality clothing at a relatively low price point. Isabel also notes that their brand name, The Doyle Twins, is ‘very strong and quite recognisable’.  

Plans for the Future

When asked about the future of the business, Isabel comments that they are ‘taking it one day at a time’. Emily-Jane is considering a career as a chartered physiotherapist, whilst Isabel may pursue a career as a solicitor. However, the twins have also discussed taking time out after college to focus on the business. The aim would be to organically scale the shop and bring the account as close as possible to larger sellers, based in the US and UK. When asked about other Depop accounts, Emily-Jane says that ‘the top sellers on Depop have an amazing community’ and frequently ask each other questions or give advice. The Depop market would appear to be relatively uncompetitive compared with other business environments. However, the twins have yet to see where the business takes them. Emily-Jane comments that the only thing they know for certain is that they cannot predict what the future has in store. Nonetheless, they are unlikely to see business slow down any time soon as sustainable and vintage style continues to stay in fashion. 

Get In Touch 

For further information (or fashion inspiration), get in touch with The Doyle Twins on Instagram or Depop.

The Sweet Success Story of The Rolling Donut

The glaze of The Rolling Donut’s glory is attributable to the power of a strong brand narrative and the consistent delivery of a memorable donut experience to consumers. In 1978, Lisa Quinlan’s father, Michael, spotted a gap in the Irish donut market. He began his venture by travelling to “festivals, concerts and garden shows” selling hot-pressed ring donuts. The iconic ‘Rolling Donut’ kiosk on O’Connell Street soon followed. Over forty years later, Lisa has six additional stores across the country. Although business is booming, the CEO does not sugar-coat the path to success.

The entrepreneur describes the period between 2014 and 2017 as “Dublin’s donut wars”. The “highly photogenic qualities of donuts” combined with social media platforms such as Instagram & Twitter, contributed to Ireland’s donut trend leading to steep competition in the industry. The Rolling Donut’s competitive edge lies in Lisa’s drive to bring creative flavours and unique designs to the market. By investing in quality ingredients and innovative talent, Lisa has differentiated her brand in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When launching new ranges like vegan and sourdough donuts, The Rolling Donut showcases the family’s early roots in the donut industry. As it has since its origins, all donuts are made from scratch everyday using high quality ingredients. Fresh lemons are essential for The Rolling Donut lemon curd product while the chocolate ganache and caramel toppings and fillings are also made in-store. Although using fresh ingredients can “be challenging for the sheer quantity of donuts,” it is a unique selling point that resonates with the loyal customer base.

Lisa mentions how “the business is feeling the on-going effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” such as staffing shortages. However, the entrepreneur has managed to seek out opportunity by focusing on building an online presence as well as catering to delivery and collection options. This has been highly successful and the company has seen online orders “double since the pandemic”. Lisa has had to pivot and remain adaptable with the business model as the industry grows and the target market matures. This has encouraged The Rolling Donut to innovate and streamline new products, such as “DIY Donut Boxes”. Creating diverse themes varying from the DIY Unicorn Magic Box to the DIY Choco Caramel Box has strengthened the growth of a diversified range of target markets “from children to corporate clients”.

Describing the expansion of The Rolling Donut as the “hardest thing” she has ever done, Lisa advises young entrepreneurs “not to give up”. The most important lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur is to “always use a business plan and spend money where it counts in areas such as equipment”. Lisa advises young entrepreneurs to “not sweat the small stuff” as “things often have a natural way of working out”. Following the launch of Very Berry, a new business specialising in chocolate strawberries, Lisa remains motivated by her entrepreneurial passion to grow her enterprise, innovate products and, no doubt, the sweet taste of success.

Big Tech: The Precarious Balance Between Algorithmic Governance and Democratic Accountability

by Rachel Carr

Over the past months Amazon and Alphabet have reported phenomenal earnings for the second quarter of 2021. These figures were largely driven by Google skyrocketing advertising revenues, which grew by 69%, along with Amazon’s advertising income which increased by 87% from the year ago quarter. These results reflect the central role that social media and technology have played in society over the last year, not only in offering a much-needed escape from the boredom of COVID-19 lockdowns but also in their newfound role as public forums. Last April, when the Italian Prime Minister decided to address the nation on the latest lockdown measures, he elected Facebook as his chosen medium of communication. Similarly, the British government requested Amazon’s assistance in distributing emergency medical supplies and Google leaped at the chance to assume its role as a mouthpiece for public services announcement across the globe. 

However, as the “Gordian Knot” that entangles Big Tech with its societal consequences tightens further, we should consider the motivations behind the growing presence of these tech heavyweights in our lives. What exactly are these  tech giants selling to their customers and what are the potential consequences?

To understand what triggered the phenomenal rise of Big Tech superpowers we must first cast an eye back to April 2000, when eager dot com investors watched in horror as the stock market imploded and the value of their portfolios plummeted. As the mirage of many of Silicon Valley’s superstar valuations began to evaporate, it became clear that in a text-book case of irrational exuberance, venture capitalists had been so blinded by the lure of the internet’s potential, that they had wildly overestimated the intrinsic value of their investments. 

Surviving tech firms, struggling to justify their value to furious investors, began to search desperately  for a port in the storm as the turmoil raged. Amongst them was Google, today’s search-engine giant,  which had been incorporated a mere two years prior. According to Shashona Zuboff, the Harvard Business School professor and author of ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,’ the dot com bubble triggered Google’s understanding that its true value lay not in the licensing deals it had been selling, but rather in its vast stores of behaviourally rich data. Despite the company’s founders previously condemning search engine advertising as “inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers”, the firm went on the capitalize on just that, with Facebook, Amazon and Twitter soon following suit.

Zuboff has coined this commoditization of the data of individuals into behavioural products that can be sold in ‘predictive futures markets’, as surveillance capitalism. In recent years the cautionary tale of “if you aren’t paying for a product you likely are the product” has been widely circulated. Of this the general public seems to be reasonably cognizant: an hour spent on Skyscanner will likely flood your feed with holiday advertisements and a trip to the ASOS homepage will litter your desktop’s ad space with outfit ideas. However, it was what the “FAANGS” discovered next, and the lucrative source of the last decade’s soaring tech valuations, that is likely to induce the most surprise. Google and its peers deduced that while it could use its data to predict the future behaviour of users with reasonable accuracy, the easiest way to guarantee the precision, and thus value of those predictions, was to influence the behaviour of users to match the algorithm’s forecasts.

An example of the application of this insight was the addition of a number of emotional reactions to Facebook’s ‘like’ button. While this modification poses as a harmless quirk designed  to allow users to further engage with the platform’s content, it also assists Facebook’s algorithms in accurately identifying and collating data on human emotions. The opportunities resulting from the utilization of this data are massive. Users can be shown posts designed to induce feelings of discomfort or sadness, followed by sponsored content intended to take advantage of this vulnerability. Along a similar vein, Google has been known to display ads for a specific restaurant and then reroute a user’s map  journey to take them past the suggested establishment: a perfect example of the use of surveillance  and behavioural modification to maximise profits at the expense of individual autonomy.

The implications of these privacy infringements extend beyond the encouragement of the occasional impulse purchase. In 2017 the autonomous hoover ‘Roomba’ came under fire when the company announced its proposal to sell floor plans of customers’ homes, scraped from the device’s mapping capabilities. Later that same year the curtain fell on the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealing the role the data analytic firm had played in manipulating the data of 87 million Facebook users to manipulate the outcomes of both Trump’s 2016 Presidential the Brexit vote. This proof of intentional cyber manipulation, designed to promote the so-called ‘splinternet’, revealed the power of Big Tech behavioural nudging to distort democratic processes. In fact, in 2019 Mark Zuckerberg’s former advisor Roger McNamee publicly criticized Facebook for its relentless pursuit of  customer data through increasingly illicit means claiming that the company’s algorithms were, ‘’honed to manipulate user engagement with practices that were eventually commandeered by bad actors to infiltrate the national (US) consciousness and disfigure political discourse.” Earlier this year Zaboff subtitled her New York Times article with the ominous statement, “We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we can’t have both.”

Whilst the extent of the influence of Big Tech on the democratic process is yet to be determined, it is undeniable that  tech companies have amassed vast stores of behavioural data which can spell danger in the wrong hands. As a result, there is an argument for putting certain social obligations on companies with such data privileges; in other words, “With great power comes great responsibility” . Covid-19 revealed Big Tech for what it truly is: a 21st century public forum. Due to their wide-reaching social impacts, large technology companies should be answerable to the governance of regulatory bodies. If banks, electricity, water and utilities companies are regulated because of the impact of these services on a nation’s citizens, then there is reason for Big Tech to no longer be able to evade such scrutiny.

Creative Destruction: Gaining in strength?

Perhaps one of Schumpeter’s most revered theories is that of creative destruction. His argument that capitalism never stands still, with long-standing, inefficient processes decaying in the wake of newer, superior ones has stood the test of time well, and in the aftermath of a global pandemic, appears to continue in this light.

WFH – a trend, an improvement, or both? 

A more obvious impact of the pandemic-induced lockdowns was the ‘Work From Home (WFH)’ situation, which many workers and students found themselves in. While evidence suggests that students and young graduates certainly wish for a return to an in-person normality, the technology, flexibility and heightened global interconnection that accompanied this WFH trend can be seen as a form of creative destruction. This is due to the replacement of older, less efficient, less flexible practices undertaken by offices with more productive, collaborative ones. With meeting participation increasing by over 2900% over the course of the Pandemic, the rise of Zoom neatly epitomises this creative destruction. Existing for almost a decade prior to the pandemic, Zoom’s overtaking of Skype, and other lower quality, more complicated platforms, coupled with a rise in global interconnectivity from which it prospered, illustrates that the foundations for creative destruction had been in place. However, it was the catalyst of the Pandemic that fuelled the eventual ousting of these inefficient processes.

Miracle Advances in Healthcare

Being a crisis in healthcare, the impacts of Covid-19 on the sector were always going to be large. As the world locked down, the personal profit from vaccines became huge, with many viewing vaccine development as the only sustainable way out of the crisis. Furthermore, for big pharma businesses, net profits from development were promising, as BioNtech’s expected revenues of €15.9 billion for this year illustrate. Thus, the fastest vaccine development in history (previously held by the mumps vaccine, which took four years to develop) followed, hailing what scientists proclaim as a new era of vaccine research. Much like the Work from Home technology, the knowledge of mRNA, alongside the ability to accelerate the testing and approval processes had been around for decades, yet a lack of funding and cooperation meant that such techniques and pace never came to fruition. Thus, the catalyst of a global pandemic rendered inefficient processes useless, in favour of more productive research techniques. While admittedly this research was far better funded than in the past, the lessons learned within the immunisation research sector, alongside the new-found ability to produce vaccines at such pace, and with new techniques, means that the creative destruction ought to last within the industry. This should heighten the efficiency and productivity of future research.

Similarly, the speed of drug development processes to aid those seriously ill with Covid-19 underwent rapid increases during the pandemic. Like with the vaccines, much of this came from the regulation-side, with approval and testing processes being fast-tracked, and the removal of unnecessary paperwork (recognised as inefficiency-inducing ‘sludge’) aiding this. Additionally, cooperation and parallel experimentation again played its part in heightening efficiency in the sector, a rise in productive techniques that many scientific researchers think will remain in a post-Covid world, further illustrating the impact of the pandemic on inducing creative destruction.

Online Shopping’s Anticipated Breakthrough

Where the biggest acceleration (rather than initiation) of creative destruction can be seen is in the retail sector, as many began relying solely on online shopping for everything from food to clothes to newspapers. Additionally, HSBC’s UK head of network noted that the closure of eighty-two of their branches between April and September 2021 was a result of the trends away from branch banking that were underlying pre-Coronavirus, with a decrease in footfall by a third in the last five years, and 90% of contact being completed remotely. This illustrates direct creative destruction at work in the retail banking sector. Furthermore, this shift to online shopping and banking has increased price and competitor transparency, meaning that allocative efficiency has heightened, bringing the market closer to its societal equilibrium, and meaning that firms must react to market trends to remain competitive – therefore increasing the sustainability of this creative destruction into the future.

Key Take-Aways 

The above processes illustrate creative destruction at work, reacting to the shock event of a global pandemic. The requirement in this instance of an event – Covid-19 – to accelerate, or even to consolidate and finalise this creative cycle could signal that Capitalism’s competitive processes were existent, yet running slow prior to the Pandemic. Taking a wider view, the extension of creative destruction to the public sector, notably with the impacts on healthcare and administrative/bureaucratic processes, ought to introduce a healthy level of heightened innovation and competition to sectors where this has previously been lacking. Whether the impacts of Covid-19 on heightened efficiency here will last remains to be seen, not-least for some areas of clinical research have been negatively impacted by the disruption of the Pandemic, yet many researchers, notably within immunology and drug development, are confident that the streamlined and productive lessons learned will be here to stay.

Furthermore, the sudden requirement for private firms to react and innovate, not only to compete, but in this case to stay financially viable means that lasting effects on firms includes an obligation to be sustainably efficient and inventive, with a new focus on pro-activity rather than re-activity to the next crisis, in order to remain profitable.

Re-Envisioning The Beautiful Game

David Deneher, Omar Salem and Tim Farrelly co-founded ‘Field of Vision’, an innovative tech start-up with a powerful social impact agenda that is transforming the match experience for visually impaired and blind soccer fans. Computer Science and Business student at Trinity College and Chief Operations Officer at Field of Vision, David Deneher, discusses the technology behind the cutting-edge device as well as his philosophy for a successful start-up. 

Haptic Technology

As most football fans will agree, there is no better place to experience a game than at the stadium. From a goal scored in overtime to a nail-biting penalty shot, being right at the pulse of the action is incommensurate to following in-stadium commentary. With approximately 55,000 people in Ireland blind or visually impaired, Field of Vision spotted a niche need in the market for a device that could enable visually impaired football fans to be fully immersed into the match experience, leaving the technique of “tracing” a thing of the past.

How is Field of Vision leveraging artificial intelligence to redefine accessibility and inclusivity in sports? Cameras, computer vision technology and specialised algorithms connect to Field of Vision’s tablet-sized device to enable the user to feel the game in real time; from “the swerve of a kick to the power of a tackle”, Field of Vision is offering a more inclusive matchday experience than ever before.

Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, the speed at which Field of Vision developed its product underscores the digital acceleration that is presently taking place. Advances in technology, many centred on AI, marks the beginning of a “new era of connectivity for assistive technologies and the businesses behind them”. The effect will be “highly impactful” for improving accessibility for persons with impairments. As a “pandemic tech start-up,” Field of Vision’s “entire journey as a company” has been unique.  For David and his co-founders the flexibility of online college offered opportunities to innovate and find their way to the forefront of their industry. Currently the business is planning to expand their technology into sports such as GAA and rugby.

Success

According to David, critical to the success of a tech start-up is harnessing the power of mentorship programmes available to young entrepreneurs. Applying for “anything and everything” has had “positive surprises” for Field of Vision. David’s philosophy is that the “worst that can happen is a no”. Diving straight into the deep end took the team to Qatar Sports Tech, an accelerator program in Doha, UAE. Having recently partnered with Bohemians Football Club and winning first place at the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards 2021, Field of Vision’s appetite to grow shows no signs of abating.

The Rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) – with a Focus on the Indian Industry

As businesses were forced to incorporate remote working in their business models due to pandemic-induced lockdowns, they needed to invest in softwares that supported this move to online operation. SaaS (software as a service) companies have been able to provide businesses with the tools to assist in this transition. While the pandemic has disrupted multiple industries, SaaS has advanced as organisations espoused digital solutions to make the move from in-person to online. Some of the biggest SaaS companies that have benefited from the pandemic include Zoom, Box, Slack, Okta, and Salesforce. These software and cloud service providers have provided businesses with tools to not only continue their business operations, but also with security to conduct work in a confidential manner.

In India alone, it is predicted that its SaaS industry could be worth $1 trillion in value by 2030 and create nearly half a million new jobs. In addition, this momentum could lead the Indian SaaS industry to win 4-6% of the global SaaS market by 2030. There are already close to 1,000 SaaS companies in India – with 10 already becoming unicorns (a company valued at over $1 billion). In fact, Indian SaaS startups have raised $4.3 billion since 2020. Although India is currently only a small contender in the global market, there is scope for the country to dominate due to the predominance of English speaking developers and the relatively low cost of hiring them. It is estimated that India could have more than 100,000 SaaS developers and more technical talent at a third of the cost available in the US, making India a hotspot for international corporations to invest in. 

The integration of SaaS within business models also appears to stand long term – past its mere necessity due to the pandemic. This is because the success of remote working has pushed companies to decide to permanently implement working-from-home. For example, TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) in India was a company that was sceptical about working remotely and rarely administered the practice due to concerns about productivity. However, its endorsement throughout the pandemic demonstrated a highly positive impact on the corporation. Such benefits included efficiency, a greater diversity in the workforce, an increase in the number of women in leadership roles, and increased productivity due to enhanced labour flexibility. TCS believes this is because remote work offers better work-life balance. The happier employees met all company objectives and even “added nearly 60 new clients and hired 45,000 people.” 

Evidently, the pandemic has created a long-lasting effect on businesses in terms of running their operations technologically. The post pandemic landscape shows evidence that SaaS could potentially even take over the IT industry in terms of valuation by 2030, such that SaaS will cross $1.8 trillion compared to IT services at $1.6 trillion. India’s mark on the SaaS industry has been quick and large. However, while there are challenges, such as the industry needing to boost funding at three to four percent of the current level to reach their potential over the next 10 years, it will be interesting to see how SaaS firms in India use their native competitive advantages to further launch themselves into the global market.

“Hungry for a Kinder World” – Interview with FoodCloud

FoodCloud’s Marketing and Brand Executive, Jessica Greene, discusses the Irish social enterprise that uses innovation to protect the planet and feed the hungry

Did you know that food waste is one of the largest contributors to global climate change?A recent Report by the Food Waste Index identified that approximately 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated globally in 2019 – 61% of which came from households, 26% from food service and 13% from retail. The ugly truth is that our habits as consumers are contributing to a heavy carbon foot print that is detrimental to the environment around us. When food starts to rot in landfills, it releases methane into the atmosphere – a greenhouse gas that is approximately 28 more times powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the earth. This is where the social enterprise ‘FoodCloud’ provides two innovative solutions to redistribute surplus food and reduce the environmental, social and economic impact of food waste. Firstly, FoodCloud’s technology driven solution connects retailers directly with local charities to donate food on a daily basis. Secondly, their warehouse hub solution rescues large volumes of surplus food from manufacturers producers, growers and redistributes it to community groups across Ireland. 

FoodCloud’s Story

FoodCloud was co-founded by Trinity College Dublin alumni Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien in 2012 as a solution to reduce food waste and increase social inclusion. With over “700 partner charities in Ireland,” FoodCloud provides their service to their network of community group partners ranging from “creches to cancer care facilities to after school youth programmes and addiction centres”. The nature of surplus food is that “the team does not know what products are coming in”. This required the business to be adaptable and agile from its early roots.

Global Vision

Driving social entrepreneurship requires innovation, collaboration and ambition – tactics FoodCloud operationalises regularly to tackle food waste on a global level. FoodCloud’s unique technology platform can complement and enhance the operation of food banks internationally and is used by nearly 3,000 donating supermarkets across Ireland, the UK, Australia and Central Europe. It is clear that FoodCloud’s drive to eradicate food waste is truly global from their commitment to supporting the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 which relates to measuring global food loss and waste and Sustainable Development Goal 2 , the “Zero Hunger” ambition.

Locally, FoodCloud are finding innovative ways to tackle the issue of food waste. For instance, FoodCloud’s gleaning initiative has re-invigorated the “ancient practice of collecting food left over from farmers’ fields and orchards to re-distribute to their network of charity and community group partners”. This practice led to FoodCloud’s first surplus product, FoodCloud Cloudy Apple Juice. Jessica points out that the team is constantly “motivated and excited about exploring possibilities to reduce the environmental impact of food waste”. This initiative demonstrates how social entrepreneurs can use creativity to create a sustainable commercial product.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, “the demand for FoodCloud’s services has more than doubled compared to last year”. For Jessica’s team, the crisis “highlighted that food insecurity can happen to anyone”. To support the challenges faced by vulnerable households during the pandemic, FoodCloud increased their food redistribution from an average of 30 tonnes per week to 60 tonnes per week. Food Cloud continues to work closely with the Irish food industry and retailers to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it, working towards their vision of a world where no food goes to waste.

Volunteering

Interested in contributing to a world where no food goes to waste? FoodCloud offers volunteering opportunities across its three hubs as well as gleaning programmes. You can check them out here. Food for thought .

Learning Lights: A Candle-Making Start-Up With A Twist

A candle-making start-up with a twist. This plucky young start-up was founded with the aim of helping students from low-income backgrounds afford third-level education. The business model is simple. The start-up manufactures and sells a range of scented candles and then invests the majority of the business’s profits into an endowment fund. The endowment fund, which will be managed by a third-party investment manager, follows a dedication strategy, investing primarily in high-grade investment bonds. Jody, the company’s founder believes that “the benefit of investing in an endowment fund instead of distributing the profits directly to qualifying students is that it gives greater stability. If the profits were to be distributed directly, the distributable amount would fluctuate greatly with yearly sales. By investing in an endowment fund this volatility can be reduced”.

The Founder

Learning Lights was founded by Jody Murphy, a third-year business student who is heavily involved in societal life at Trinity. He believes that the private sector could do more to improve equality of opportunity particularly with regards to the financial accessibility of third-level education, and so he decided to take action.

The Candles

Learning lights not only helps students, it also helps the environment, through its sustainability agenda. All candles are made from natural soy wax and are set in recycled glass bottles. In addition to this, all the  candles are handmade and dispatched within 2 days of purchase. Currently, there are five scents (Vanilla, Rose, Sandalwood-Vanilla, Lavender, and Japanese Magnolia)  available in two sizes (13.5 oz, and 8.5 oz).

Plans for the Future

Within the first 24 hours of trading, Learning Lights had sold all of its inventory. It was anticipated that there would be a slump in sales after the initial launch, however, the revenue from the launch has brought cash into the business that has allowed Learning Lights to continue to improve its online presence as well as fund more inventory. Within the next week, Learning Lights will become available in several locations throughout Monaghan and Dublin.

“Thankfully, there haven’t been any major issues so far, just some minor start-up hiccups,’ says Jody.

In the coming months, the Learning Lights Alliance Initiative will come into action. This involves businesses that burn candles on their premises, such as salons, cafés, restaurants and hotels, becoming Learning Lights Allies by purchasing and burning Learning Lights.

Trinity Society Involvement

Jody credits the business societies at Trinity for helping him take the first steps in launching this venture. In his second year at Trinity, he became an ambassador for the TES incubator programme. By engaging in this programme, he not only learned a great deal about developing a start-up, but also gained valuable exposure to start-ups that were involved in the incubator programme.

Jody is also part of the Trinity Business Review team and is currently the Secretary and Chief Strategy Officer. In this role, Jody has gained confidence and gained significant knowledge of the Irish business environment.

Check Learning Lights out at

Etsy: LearningLights on Etsy

Shop in Ireland: Shop in Ireland | Gifts for all occasions | Irish handmade |

Instagram: Learning Lights (@learninglights_candles)

How Trinity Start-up ‘Locallee’ plans to save shipwrecked SMEs

The waves of restrictions that have been strangling Irish commerce in order to curve the effects of Covid-19 have wreaked havoc upon all levels of business within our domestic market and further afield. One group which has been particularly affected are the 248 small and 344 medium enterprises within Ireland. Many retailers within this group were left without major footfall, and with only 32% of these retailers having a functioning website, their source of sales dried up, starving them of any opportunity to survive Covid-19. This is where 3rd year Computer Science and Business students Seán Larkin, Franklin Ume Obiekwe and Daniel Grace have come together to design a much-needed platform for small retailers, enabling them to be able to connect with their customers online.

The Team

Seán knows firsthand how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on small business in Ireland. His parents are owners of an SME themselves, and while they have been fortunate enough to weather the hardships, many Irish businesses have had to endure during this time; some of their friends and many others in a similar position have not been as lucky. Seán asked himself what he could do to help small firms not only recover but prosper post-pandemic, and quickly identified the potential power of the internet. E-shopping has skyrocketed in light of restrictions cutting off the chance to shop in person, with Amazon alone seeing profits shoot up over 200% over the course of the pandemic.

The team’s efforts have culminated in ‘Locallee’, which hopes to act as an online shopping centre for local businesses. Locallee hopes to address current small retailer’s challenges by allowing businesses to meet their potential demand online, while also providing a host of online resources to allow retailers to perform to the best of their abilities. Locallee’s potential is obvious; with a model reminiscent of Amazon’s and with Ireland’s S.M.E.s forming the backbone of the Irish economy, Seán, Franklin and Dan are confident in their ability to scale their project as traffic rises. Seán and Franklin already have some experience in this field, having been successful in reaching the knock-out stages of a start-up accelerator competition within Tangent with their commerce app, Digitill. This prior knowledge has been instrumental in creating a product with real potential.

Where They Are Now

Locallee’s sign-up process takes less than thirty minutes providing retailers with little to no e-commerce experience the opportunity to benefit from this mode of trade. No technical experience is required by Locallee users, bridging a skill gap which in many instances can be the death of retailers trying to ply their trade online. Seán highlights how the likes of Squarespace, while allowing retailers to establish a website, lacks the marketing and other business functions needed to create monetary value. Locallee hopes to change this.

The team highlighted the trojan effort taken to get their idea off the ground, the platform is currently in its developmental phase, with focus being placed on creating their ‘minimal viable product’, or the first workable version of their business concept. Dan has been handling the technical side of things, while Franklin has been busy establishing platform features needed to add value to the user experience. Even with well north of one hundred hours of individual work put into the project each, the team also wanted to mention all the help they’ve been glad to receive so far regarding their project. In particular, Tangent’s Joe Lanzillotta and Alison Tracey have been a great help to Seán and Franklin’s previous projects and they are glad to have their expertise and support, as well as that of Tangent’s C.E.O. Ken Finnegan, with this new endeavour also.

Plans For The Future

In the immediate future, the Locallee team will be testing and refining their software and business models in a select group of towns across Ireland. Seán, Frank and Dan are hopeful that before the end of the year, Locallee will be boosting local businesses across Ireland.

During our conversation, the team alluded to the further potential of Localee’s ability to provide not only a platform, but also support to their patrons. They firmly believe that Locallee will also be able to assist businesses using the platform in regard to the fulfilment of orders through the design and provision of an order and delivery model. This scalability is not only restricted to how Locallee can function, but also to where it functions. Small retailers across the globe have all been faced with a lack of customer interaction, and with a meteoric rise in e-commerce, many need to shift the way they operate to stay competitive within the evolving retail climate. Countries within the E.U. and the U.K. are an obvious first choice. In Seán’s view, after expansion throughout Ireland, the allure of the United States economy is not out of the equation further down the line. All of this hope for the platform’s future is validated by the fact that Locallee possesses the ability to enact real positive change to small retailers across the globe.

Get In Touch

You can check out Locallee’s brochure website here, and if you wish to hear more about the project, the team can be contacted at @locallee2021@gmail.com

From Graduation to Innovation – Interview with Trinity Start-Up Covid Interns

Trinity Global Business graduates Rob Muldowney and Paddy Ryder experienced the all too familiar story of having their graduation plans unexpectedly dismantled by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Except, their story stands out – Rob and Paddy adapted and identified an opportunity to use global chaos to launch a successful business  – Covid Interns. With support from Trinity Business school the entrepreneurs hit the ground running. Here Rob tells us how.

What does Covid Interns do? “It offers an array of opportunities for third-level students to work with SMEs.” Rob and Paddy are uniquely positioned to understand the flexible employment needs of students. Their business offers three types of placements – “projects, part time roles and full time roles”. Rob provides the example of a student working part time in the hospitality business. Covid Interns can connect their third-level skills and learning to the admin side of the industry, for instance to run a social media platform. This provides the foundations to gain practical experience in their chosen field and helps build the CV. Covid Interns is epitomising the redefinition of business purpose captured by leading Oxford University Professor Colin Mayer at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, in terms of businesses now producing profitable solutions to the problems of people rather than profiting from the problems they create. To date, Covid interns has supported in excess of 180 businesses and placed over 200 candidates with experience from New York to Singapore from more than 40 leading universities including the University of Cambridge, Science Po and Imperial College London to name but a few.

With “first-hand knowledge of the anxiety and stress students face when sourcing internship opportunities”, their idea hatched from “the beast of a strategic management module assignment.” Rob and Paddy agreed that the pandemic was ripe with opportunity for innovation as the “SME market was hugely overlooked and underserved”. The outcome would provide a win-win scenario for students and SMEs as an industry that was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. While students bring fresh skills and talent to the table, SMEs provide practical experience and bespoke learning opportunities.

Envisioning the future of Covid Interns in a post pandemic world, Rob affirms that their business is here to say, albeit with the baptism of a new business name on the horizon. There “will always be a market for flexible opportunities” and gusto from students for seizing them.  Next, I asked Rob how can a student apply to Covid Interns.  It is as easy as going directly onto their website and completing the student friendly application form. You can also stay up to date with Covid Interns via their active social media domains – Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. With four strategic additions to the team Covid Interns is constantly growing, and with links to global platforms such as the Irish International Business Network it is only going to grow faster.

Entrepreneurship comes with a host of challenges, especially in a global pandemic. Rob identifies the biggest challenge facing students as “trying to start a business from the four walls of your  bedroom.” In absence of the possibility of “face to face interactions it can difficult to build relationships and collegiality with business teams.” Rob suggests three key strategic moves students pursuing an entrepreneurial position during the pandemic can make. Start with “identifying products and services that can stand the test of time”. The benefit of launching a start-up in a pandemic is that you can clearly spot gaps in the consumer market and successfully fill them. Next, Rob maintains that “ a feel good story” can act as a springboard to capture positive press and people’s imaginations, simultaneously helping to grow a loyal consumer base.  Lastly “although Covid can mess up plans” as the saying goes every cloud…

1 Continent, 1 Billion+ People, Endless Opportunities – Maeve Rafferty, International Development in Africa Specialist

Think about the t-shirt you are wearing. Who sew it? What are their working conditions like? Where they paid a fair wage? The rhetoric of a global village means the habits of consumers of the Global North have wide-ranging ramifications, stretching from the factory floor to the price of your t-shirt on the high-street. However, student decisions as ethical industry leaders of tomorrow can break ground in new markets while leaving a positive footprint. As global business interest in Africa flourishes, I recently interviewed Maeve Rafferty, a Trinity College Business, Economics and Social Studies alumnus with a passion for international development, innovation, and identifying opportunities for entrepreneurship in the emerging African markets. She spotlights Africa’s underestimated potential as a market for innovation, investment, and social entrepreneurship for enterprising students. Maeve also discusses the interaction between social entrepreneurship and positive societal development.

Market Opportunities
As an MSc in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh candidate, Maeve has extensive insight and practical experience in understanding how globalisation interlocks with policy, practice, and business strategy. Acknowledging the market reluctances on part of buyers and suppliers in the West towards doing business with companies in Africa, Maeve highlights two reasons driving opportunities in these markets for forward looking student entrepreneurs. Firstly, delineating the economic shift that is under way in the continent Maeve draws
parallels with development challenges experienced in the 1960’s Asian markets which turned into a rapid growth period for the Four Asian Tigers- Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. Where is next? Maeve suggests “Africa, as it is far too big of a global player to ignore.” According to a recent United Nations Forecasts, the continent is expected to double its population by 2050, from 1 billion to nearly 2.4 billion inhabitants. The implications of this growth present high long-term rewards for entrepreneurs who unleash Africa’s strategic position and potential.

Trends indicate rising incomes across the continent presenting an “attractive market” for those who identify gaps in the consumer market and seize the opportunity before competitors do. Secondly, innovation is needed where there is a lack of infrastructure. According to Maeve “Africa presents underexploited potential for sustainable industrialisation and innovation.” A 2016 report by Afrobarometer indicated that only 63% of the African population has access to piped water, and half the population live in areas without paved roads. It is important to bridge the distorted historical perception gap of Africa as a disconnected continent, 93% of the population has access to mobile networks. This reflects a continent of innovators and digital adopters. Developing sustainable infrastructure is an important step towards increasing productivity and competitiveness.

Social Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship can create value in societies while also assisting their development. This is particularly pertinent in “lower or middle income countries which have less employment provided by the public sector, making the private sector a crucial employer.” For example, 3% of Tanzania’s employment is in the public sector. The remaining 97% presents opportunities in the private sector for social entrepreneurs seeking to create benefits which can improve “living conditions, and ensure people can live a dignified and secure life”. The wider knock on effects of entrepreneurship enables society to benefit from “more expenditure and higher demand for consumer goods which increases the ability for to create the supply to meet consumer demands”.

What can students do to drive social entrepreneurship? From Maeve’s experience in the education sphere, she suggests that students are already empowered to know that “decoupling needs to occur”. We need to decouple the idea that in order to have “economic growth there also has to be negative ramifications for the environment
and wider society.” Maeve views students as “ethical industry leaders of tomorrow, if they acknowledge and work towards ensuring the organisations they lead are conscientious in how their decisions are made, they have the power to contribute to sustainable development or hinder it.” The challenge of the COVID-19 lockdown presents opportunities for students to “reflect on society’s needs and meet consumer demand.” Maeve sees the student generation as social innovators, intuitively possessing skills that organisations are now acquiring, she recommends “reaching out to these global players and applying those skills positively to have a powerful impact” not just locally, but globally.

“Nowhere close” to enough climate action?

A new report from the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Action (UNCCF) has announced that the world’s nations are doing “nowhere close” enough to keep the global temperature increases well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

What does the report show?

The initial Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Synthesis Report measures the progress of national climate action plans. The report described the findings, based on 75 countries that account for roughly 30% of the world’s emissions, as falling “far short” of what is required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and marking a “red alert” for the planet. Countries were required to submit their reports by the end of 2020, though many failed to do so due with Covid-19 further backlogging civil services. For this reason, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary insists that the report is just a snapshot, and that a clearer picture will have emerged before the COP26 climate summit in November.

Of those countries that did submit reports, the majority did indeed commit to lowering their emissions by 2030. However, the totality of the 75 countries’ current commitments would result in an estimated 1% total drop by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that to meet Paris Agreement’s lower-bound of 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the cumulative reduction should be around 45%.

Why is it important that countries do meet the Paris Agreements standards?

The historic Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2015, is a legally binding international agreement that mandates signatories to do their part in the common effort to limit global warming. Its goal is to limit global temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and preferably only 1.5°C above these.

If temperature levels are allowed to increase by more than this, experts predict that serious and likely irreversible harm will be done to many of the earth’s natural and human systems. While the risks will not be felt equally everywhere in the world, the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C above pre-industrial temperature levels is likely to be significant. These facts are what have urged the UN and many of its members to call for more meaningful commitments from the Paris Agreement’s signatories.

Will 2021 see improvements from the initial report?

The UN’s General Secretary, António Guterres, called 2021 a “make or break” year for global climate action, stressing that global emissions must be reduced by 45% from 2010 to reach the 1.5°C goal, with the landmark COP26 climate summit taking place in Glasgow this November.

The inclination to imagine that reducing emissions by 45% compared to 2010 levels seems unlikely is understandable, given the report’s findings. Three of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters failed to submit their NDC reports on time. It is still unclear if China and India will submit reports before the COP26 summits. Additionally, countries such as Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia, failed to improve upon their 2015 plans’ commitment to emission reduction. Meanwhile, Brazil’s plan made no commitment to reducing emissions by 2030.

However, despite the dreary premonitions that the UNCCF’s report may arouse, seeds of hope can be found in the dynamic, if not rocky, field of global climate action politics. The EU27 is the only one of the world’s four largest emitters to submit a plan on time, but Joe Biden’s American government, which has re-joined the Paris Agreement, is expected to submit an NCD plan by April. It is thought that strong American action to reduce emissions will signal to the world that green commitment is the future.

China has also promised to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Many critics are understandably sceptical of the authoritarian regime’s commitment to the global attempt to mitigate climate change, given the behemoth scale of their brown investment. However, there are others who believe that the Chinese government’s changing rhetoric is not merely verbose signalling, but rather a recognition of the world’s (and its profit-seeking investors’) desire for trustworthy investments that will truly contribute to the fight against climate change.

With this in mind, 2021 may well be a “make or break” year for the effort to reduce global emissions.

‘Your Network is Your Net Worth’: Trinity Business Alumni

What is the Trinity Business Alumni?

The Trinity Business Alumni (TBA) is an association of Trinity College graduates who are engaged in the business world. The aim of the TBA is to create a forum for Trinity alumni to connect, network, learn and contribute to the development of College, business and our wider society. Since it was founded in 1592, Trinity has educated a community of alumni that spans the globe, and currently has over 140,000 alumni in over 148 countries worldwide. In recent years, the membership base of the TBA has grown to over 6,000 members. The TBA recognises the diversity of thought required to drive successful organisations and for that reason it welcomes members of all academic disciplines, industry sector or career level. The TBA believes that a Trinity education continues beyond the front gates and throughout our graduates’ lives, which is reflected in what they do as an organisation.

The TBA has a number of core values that shape the culture and define the character of the organisation. These core values ultimately guide how the TBA behaves and makes decisions. They are outlined below:

Club For Life
Aiding and enabling members to maintain a connection and sense of identity and pride as a Trinity College Alumnus.

Excellence and Relevance

Providing high calibre events for our members which are pertinent to their interests and business needs.

Inclusive and Accessible
Welcoming all graduates of Trinity, regardless of academic discipline, industry sector or career level.

Strong TCD Heritage

Fostering a continued sense of our collective history in College while contributing to its development as a leading global university.

Mutual Value Creation
Developing a community of professionals who connect for mutual gain through personal development, business opportunities and shared interest.

What are the Benefits of Being a Member of the TBA?

Being a member of the TBA has a number of benefits including:

  • Invitations to exclusive TBA Dinner in Camera events, which have boasted fantastic speakers in the past, such as former professional rugby player Gordon D’Arcy and Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe
  • Invitations to joint TBA and MBA Masterclasses and breakfast briefings with top-class speakers. Events recently have included topics such as “Networking & Career Transition in a Post-Covid World” and “The Future of Start-Ups: the innovation landscape after Covid-19”
  • Opportunities to develop your professional network through events and online platforms
  • Mentoring current Trinity students online and at in person events

The TBA also possesses close ties with the Trinity Business School and supports innovative events such as the Trinity Global Business Forum, not to mention sponsoring the Trinity Business Student of the Year Award. As well as this, the TBA is affiliated with a number of corporate partners that help to bring much needed resources, skills and capabilities to the association.

As aforementioned, the Trinity community of Alumni spans 148 countries across the globe. The TBA is no different, with active member groups in a vast number of international cities, including places such as New York, London and Brussels. Having access to such a diverse range of members and locations is most certainly another benefit of being a member of such a broad and experienced association.

Plans for the Future

The ambition of the TBA is to grow the Trinity Business Alumni in support of the evolution of Trinity College, and to become an ever more relevant network to the wide range of Trinity graduates in business today, as stated by President of the TBA and Managing Director of Investec Corporate Finance Ireland – Liam Booth. Although the ongoing pandemic has put a halt to the in person events of the TBA, the current series of webinars hosted by the TBA have proven popular.

However, the TBA is looking forward to a time in the near future where the option of hosting in person events is once again available. Recently, there has been a focus on increasing the membership of younger Trinity graduates. In today’s world there is no limit to the amount of connections that a person can have, so why not start to expand your network now.

Membership with the Trinity Business Alumni network is automatically given to all graduates from the School of Business. However, the TBA network is not just for Business alumni – it is open to all graduates of Trinity College, from every discipline, who work in the business sphere. If you wish to join the TBA, please go to https://tba.ie/become-a-member-of-the-tba/ and fill in the form, it is free to join and I would highly recommend it.

“Your network is your net worth” – Porter Gale

Gradlife with Tom Lynch

This week on Gradlife, Danny talks to Tom Lynch, a pricing analyst for Avolon, one of the world’s top aircraft lessors. Having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in UCD, Tom went on to undertake a Masters degree in Aviation Finance, which led to an internship with Avolon. Tom gives us an insight into his role as a pricing analyst in Avolon’s Hong Kong office and also details his involvement in the ‘Project I’ a study around the development of Ireland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. A quick but fascinating chat with one of Ireland’s top young prospects in aviation.

The Shebeen and Covid-19 in Ireland

The shebeen (or síbín, in Irish) has seen a quiet revival in Ireland since the pandemic of loneliness accompanying Covid-19 lockdowns reached Ireland in early 2020. It is widely known that the pub is a temple of communal interaction, deeply entrenched in the psyche of many Irish people. Pub closures have left a void in Irish society and particularly in its rural communities, where pubs are not only social hubs, but economic pillars. It appears that some have reverted to the shebeen in an attempt to quell their craving for human contact that social distancing and lockdowns induce.

What is a shebeen?

A shebeen is an illegal, unlicensed pub, usually found in people’s homes or sheds. Their historical origin is in Ireland, but the illicit bars soon made their way around the world, appearing and evolving in countries like South Africa, the US and Canada. Interestingly, while shebeens have long been in decline in Ireland, they became an essential meeting-place for the black people community under apartheid in South Africa and most are now legally operated there. Shebeens have become far less numerous in Ireland, but have made somewhat of a comeback since the onset of multiple Covid-19 lockdowns, which left people craving physical and social interaction. While shebeens are not exclusive to the Covid-19 period, there has been an upsurge in shebeen raids and reports in Ireland since the first lockdown in March.

The problem with shebeens during Covid-19

Shebeens have raised concerns for two main reasons during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Firstly, leaving the pandemic aside, they are illegal. Defined as “unlicensed drinking premises” under the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 1962, to be found attending (or to supply alcohol to) a shebeen is to break the law. It is reasonably difficult to differentiate between a shebeen and a “man-cave” or legal home-bar. Gardaí are provided with vague metrics to instruct their course of action. The Act states that large quantities of alcohol stored on a premises and evidence of frequent consumption are indicators of incriminating behaviour. This allows for substantial variation in the make-up of a shebeen. They may range in sophistication from a crude few taps and some seating to being almost indistinguishable from a licensed pub. In addition, the law states that an unlicensed premises can serve alcohol to the owner, family members, residents, workers and “bona fide” guests. Hence, the distinction between a genuine private gathering space and a shebeen is precarious under this framework. However, these ambiguities are irrelevant in a time of national lockdown, during which household visits are banned.

Consequently, the second issue that the shebeen’s return to relative prominence in Ireland presents is that assembling in a shebeen likely breaks public health rules, even during milder levels of government regulations. Non-adherence to these rules can contribute to the spread of Covid-19, which is economically and physically undesirable, and may result in unnecessary burden being placed on an already inefficient national healthcare service. It can also cause undue tension between citizens making sacrifices to comply with regulations and those using shebeens, which carries its own undesirable ramifications. Likewise, licensed publicans and other business-owners feel aggrieved that their pubs, which must obey public health guidelines when open, have been labelled as virus-spreading “scapegoats” and forced to close while shebeens have become increasingly prevalent. It is important to note that while shebeens have become more pervasive since the outbreak of Covid-19, an Garda Síochána have repeated that their presence does not represent endemic lawlessness. Shebeens have always been in Ireland and probably always will be. The Gardaí have appealed to the public to report any shebeens, and will raid all illicit premises they are alerted to.

Understanding the Irish shebeen renaissance during the pandemic

Social drinking is a unique outlet for Irish people. The swathe of mental health issues that have arisen as a result of lockdowns and social isolation offer a simple explanation of why many have risked breaking the law and public health guidelines. People have become lonely, and one of their primary means of interacting with other humans has been placed off-limits. Generally, shebeens are not in the business of cramming in rabbles or making money. Rather, they are small spaces where a few people meet to satisfy their need for human connection. While the shebeen presents complex moral and legal quandaries, the reasons behind their upswing are as basic as any other human craving.   

The pandemic’s effect on food delivery services

The impact of the pandemic has affected companies in various industries differently. However, food delivery companies, have been on the receiving end of better performance unlike their hospitality peers. In fact, the pandemic completely turned around the situation for certain companies. 

Billions of dollars worth of losses for the food delivery sector were forecasted at the beginning of the year. One of the most notable food delivery businesses, Grubhub, was actually contemplating “putting itself up for sale after losing its foothold on the market.” 

The pandemic has proved to entirely reverse situations like these as more and more restaurants shut down during lockdown periods. As a result, people who were forced to stay indoors turned to food delivery. 

How did Uber respond?

As Uber’s core ride business drastically declined, it heavily focused on its delivery services. Sales for meal delivery increased by 135% in the US alone. With positive trends like this, Uber has planned a $2.65 billion acquisition of Postmates to increase its market share and reduce competition. This will allow Uber to control 37% of the food delivery sector in the United States, second behind DoorDash. The company also tried to merge with Grubhub but JustEatTakeaway beat the company to it, now allowing JustEat an entrance into the US market. Uber has also been focusing on diversifying its service portfolio by launching a grocery delivery service in the US. The idea is to create services that consumers form habits off of, to ultimately continue its boom growth trajectory post-pandemic.

How did DoorDash respond?

DoorDash has been taking full advantage of the soaring appetite of customers for its services and has secured an opportunity for an initial public offering. It was able to secure $2.5 billion in capital to expand from its original food delivery service to offer convenience and grocery store products as well. DoorDash also expanded its product portfolio to create Storefront to support restaurants in listing their stores on DoorDash without the charge of commission on items sold. It also set up Self-Delivery which allows restaurants to be listed on the app but use their own delivery services. DoorDash is aware of the benefits it is receiving from current circumstances and is not ignoring the possibility of its soaring demand potentially decreasing once the pandemic starts to settle. “Warnings in its IPO paperwork [that]… the circumstances that have accelerated the growth of our business stemming from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic may not continue in the future.” Nevertheless, consumer dependence on such services continues to grow the longer the pandemic prevails, which is why DoorDash is now valued at $38 billion.

The holiday season

Food delivery services are now increasingly focusing on speed of delivery as a key source of competitive advantage – especially as orders increased during the holiday season. For example, Postmates is launching a new business model for retail that allows customers to get “instant delivery from clothing, home, beauty and wellness retailers, and allowing the delivery company to broaden its reach.” It seems as though companies that initially started off in the food delivery sector are now beginning to dip their feet in offering services similar to that of Amazon. Mike Buckley, the senior vice president of Postmates, notes that there has been a shift in consumer habits as they increasingly transition to online shopping. Companies are allowing faster provision of these products as they work to increase the speed of their deliveries.

This shows the new opportunities the pandemic has created for the food delivery industry. The use of digital marketplaces is now being broadened to provide a bridge for customers to virtually shop for both household essentials and recreational products from retailers.

The Murky Business Of Territorial Waters

The thought of international waters conjures images of shady dealings, pirate radio and lawless seas, but the claimed areas of water bordering these oceans have questionable origins, too. Territorial waters appear straight-forward on the surface, but peering into their depths often leads to a sea of murkiness surrounding politics, natural resources and importantly, trade. In a world where natural resources are becoming ever-more depleted and in conjunction with the departure of Britain from the European Union, these waters will become even more important.

Defining Territorial Waters

In international law, territorial waters are defined as the areas of water directly adjacent to a state, and are subsequently subject to the jurisdiction of that state. This means that the adjacent state has sovereignty to the water, the seabed below, and the airspace above. Other states may only enter this body of water for “innocent passage”, with foreign aircraft or submarines not permitted to pass through. Due to this, fishing rights are not extended to the trawlers and fishermen of foreign nations, although the Common Fisheries Policy of the E.U. is an exception to this.

While this is perfectly reasonable regarding a nation’s immediate borders, the laws can and have been bent to meet a nation’s needs in a variety of ways. For example, Chile and Peru claim their territorial waters reach as far as their continental shelf: an area of submerged land still connected to the continent with relatively shallow waters, which lies directly before the much deeper ocean floor- much like the steps leading to a deeper swimming pool. This gives these nations an additional 370 kilometers of offshore territory, and more importantly, access and ownership to natural resources such as oil and gas.

Similarly, Russia has made claims that an ocean ridge on its northern coast stretches into the Arctic circle, allowing them to lay claim to the huge reserves of oil and gas estimated at $2 billion, which for millennia had been protected from mankind due to the difficulty in its extraction due to harsh weather conditions in the Arctic. With global warming melting these obstacles to harvesting, Russia has staked its claim to the Arctic seafloor, in the form of a Russian flag being planted by a miniature submarine on the North Pole seabed. This region of the world is very susceptible to ecological harm and any type of oil extraction poses as a serious threat to the climate and wildlife of the region. The indigenous Saami tribe of the area are threatened from the potential claim, with their culture and livelihoods at stake.

Colonial Claims

France’s territorial waters are the largest of any nation with nearly 10,760,500 km2 under the 5th republic’s governance. This initially seems odd, given the size of France (643,801 km2), but taking a look at the country’s colonial history gives an explanation. The embers of a once great French Empire lay scattered across the globe in the form of small inhabited islands, archipelagos and atolls stretching from la France métropolitaine to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, further still to Antarctica and across to the Caribbean islands of the French West Indies.  While many of these once subjugated islands were granted independence, many still belong to France, leading to a situation where France’s longest land border lies not with Belgium or Germany, but rather between French Guiana and Brazil, 7,216 kilometers from Paris. These satellite dominions give France a global presence in terms of military activity and natural resource exploitation. The huge swathes of ocean associated with these areas also gives great opportunity to the French fishing industry.

Chinese Island Construction

China has come under fire recently due to its decision to engage in “island-building” in the south China sea in order to bolster its territorial claims. China has built on sandbanks and small uninhabited islands in the region, transforming them from scraps of land into military installations, strengthening its presence in the area. While China isn’t the first to engage in such practices in the region, the rate at which it is aggressively pursuing this course is a cause of concern for many parties. A third of the word’s trade flows through the South China Sea. With China having the potential to effectively control this trade route, many states fear that sanctions may be imposed, and restricted movements enforced by the Chinese government. The actions would cripple industry and business within their respective economies.

How A Small Island Can Play A Huge Role

While the points above highlight the role these island outcrops can play, one could still be forgiven for questioning how important a small island may be on a world-wide scale. One can look toward the small island chain of French Polynesia. The micro-state only possesses a population of 270,000. With the main industries consisting of agriculture and handicrafts, it’s clear that it is far from an industrial powerhouse. However, the importance of French Polynesia is best highlighted in terms of its waters, whose combined area exceeds 4.7 million kilometers2. For context, this is comparable to the entire landmass of the European union.

This ability for small plots of land to hold huge strategic importance can be highlighted a lot closer to home. The basalt outcrop of Rockall has long been a source of contention between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The uninhabited rock lies 370 kilometers north of the Donegal coast and 300 kilometers west of the Scottish island of St. Kilda. Officially incorporated into the United Kingdom through an act of Westminster in 1972, following its annexation by the British navy in 1955, Britain’s claim to the island is still yet to be recognized by the Irish government. Presently the fishing rights around Rockall belong to Scotland, and with Britain’s departure from the European Union, the tension surrounding the Rock is bound to escalate further. This is best highlighted in the Scottish Secretary for Economy’s threat to deploy naval vessels to the area to enforce Scotland’s exclusive fishing rights to the waters surrounding Rockall. The fishing industry is vital to County Donegal and many of its fishermen risk being wiped out if they are denied access to fishing in Rockall’s waters, highlighting how large an influence a now-extinct volcanic island can possess.

“Be Brave, Be Bold and Take Risks” – Kate Simpson, President of the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore

‘Be brave, be bold and take risks’

Meet the Corporate Globetrotter, Kate Simpson, President of the Irish Chambers of Commerce Singapore speaks about the strategies students need to succeed in the global business playing field.

Grappling with virtual networking, applying for internships and preparing for dream job interviews in an increasingly competitive environment, students and graduates alike can feel overwhelmed by the pressure of the hunt. I recently interviewed Ms. Kate Simpson, to discuss a range of issues pertinent to students, including insights from her journey to corporate success, her thoughts on how students can utilise their professional connections and prospects, as well as the importance of achieving gender equality and greater diversity in the corporate world.

Kate graduated from University College Dublin in 2008 with a Bachelor of Commerce in International Commerce with Italian. Attributing her adventurous nature to her Erasmus year spent in Università Boconni, Milan, Kate went on to achieve a CEMS (Community of European Management School) Master’s degree from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in International Management and HEC Paris.

Graduating at the onset of the global financial crisis, Kate faced a challenging employment climate where “jobs were few on the ground”, exacerbated by a fragile economy similar to the pandora’s box 2020 has unleashed on “Covid graduates”. Before the pandemic shook the world and rocked the global economy, students expected to graduate into a landscape of fruitful employment opportunities and promising prospects. The hiring field has drastically changed.  However, as the world gains understanding into emerging economic trends, Kate remains optimistic for the prospects 2021 will offer graduates.

Drawn to Singapore as a fast paced city and global financial hub, Kate and her husband relocated there in 2014 from Paris. With an Irish diaspora of approximately five thousand people, Kate describes how the Irish community has been supporting each other on a commercial as well as a personal level throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an investment banker at J.P. Morgan Singapore, Kate’s role focuses on new markets and product access of derivative products in the Asia-Pacific region. Kate became the President of the Irish Chambers of Commerce Singapore in September 2020 having served as Vice President since 2017. The organisation aims to create networks and connections of business leaders and, support Irish companies and professionals seeking exposure and launching into the South East Asia region. From a practical perspective, companies that would have traditionally visited Singapore to scope out a market or business opportunity are currently unable to do so given travel restrictions. This is where the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore steps in to be the sounding board for prospective companies who wish to expand their business East. 

The Global Irish – Insights for Students Planning to Emigrate

Kate invited me to join the Chambers of Commerce first virtual event, “An Evening with An Taoiseach” which she hosted. The event was truly international with opening words from the Irish Ambassador to Singapore His Excellency Pat Bourne, alongside ambassadors representing APAC countries and guests from every corner of the globe. Discussion revolved around the gateway the Irish Diaspora Strategy 2020-2025 offers to expand cultural innovation as well as foster dynamic commercial relationships for Irish entrepreneurs and businesses abroad.

Expanding the cohort of the Irish diaspora, driving growth, and promoting international networks, the strategy is ground breaking for both students and graduates. Embracing a vision that reflects the flexibility and adaptability of the Irish abroad, students planning ventures overseas can be assured that they will be supported by the Emerald isle.

Key to Success

Persistence, drive and vision are key components to success. I asked Kate what she did differently to excel in the corporate sector. Kate pin points her success to “remaining humble and hungry combined with a little luck”. She advises students not to be “deterred by rejection in the context of a job or internship interview since a greater opportunity is always around the corner”.

The job market in 2021 is going to be more competitive than ever before so positioning is key. Going into an interview “up to speed on the latest news pertaining to that company, being ready with meaningful questions and sending a follow up note after the interview will help you stand out”. Trusting your gut feeling, taking opportunities as they come, and maintaining a “say yes” frame of mind are inroads to success. 

Integral to success is the ability to network effectively. According to Kate the best place for students to start is “joining a University society that reflects a keen interest and passion”. This provides you with the opportunity to meet friends outside of your course and also adds another “feather to your hat” when interviewing for roles.

Diversity and Inclusion

How does the financial services sector fare when it comes to gender equality? According to a 2019 Deloitte report the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms stands at 21.9%. In order to stop the permeation of gender related roadblocks in the financial industry some firms have taken strides to empower, encourage and energize women to progress in the corporate sector.

As co-chair of JP Morgan’s Women on the Move Initiative Kate is committed towards ensuring both men and women receive equal opportunities and career advice. Kate hosts a range of events for women to advance in the business world ranging from “coaching, presentation and technical skills and financial education with a role on financial independence”. Her motto is “you can’t be what you can’t see,” it is imperative for a firm to have both gender diversity in a management team as well as cultural diversity where everyone can voice their opinions openly.  

Graduate careers are affected by a firms commitment to gender equality and diversity in more ways than one. A diverse company will attract the most talented graduates and often “forms a priority for millennials selecting a job”. Kate views company culture as crucial in “promoting and valuing diverse teams,” it is well known that a diverse workforce leads to smarter, stronger and innovative decisions, “contributing positively to financial performance”. Diversity makes sense both socially and commercially. Graduates are central players in accelerating positive change by forcing companies to refocus and rethink their inclusion and diversity policies. Embrace the opportunity to “ask about your perspective firm’s diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives”.

Making a Positive First Impression in the Corporate World

A flawless application, a distinct LinkedIn profile and a bulletproof CV undoubtedly  plagues the conversation of students as the season of internship applications approaches. Reminiscing on her first-hand experience as a marketing intern at the New York Stock Exchange Euronext’s European headquarters in Paris, Kate elucidates how this sowed the seeds to securing a full time contract with the company for six years. Kate prospered in an environment where she was “thrown in the deep end” and faced the challenge of conducting business through French head on. Describing the cultural difference alongside the initiative linguistic challenges, Kate embraced the experience as a “firm believer in what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger”. One of the key lessons from Kate’s experience in Paris was to be empathetic when people are studying or working in a second language.

Those fortunate enough to secure an internship often mention how a coffee meet up with a senior member of a firm sets the tone of the much anticipated agenda. I asked Kate her opinion on how students can develop a relationship beyond a “one-off coffee”- here’s what you can do. According to Kate “first impressions count”. It is important to make a lasting impact on a prospective employer. Kate advises to “think big and beyond the scope of your internship.” Finding common ground is essential, it is human nature to connect through shared passions and experiences. Asking “questions about the long term strategy of the company, challenges ahead and always sending a thank you note can go a long way in ensuring [a partner] remembers you and demonstrates a genuine appreciation for their time and advice”.

Students working as interns or graduates entering the corporate world aim to portray an image that is confident, intelligible and driven. To reflect these traits Kate recommends to start by “removing these words from your vocabulary”. The first word is “sorry” – a series of studies found that women apologise more than men. Over apologising can have a negative effect on your career by “undercutting professionalism” and “diminishing credibility”. Next, eliminate the words “just” , “like” and “think,” using phrases such as “I just want to ask” or “I think” implies a “degree of doubt” and has the potential to create a “weak impression of yourself where there need not be”. You can replace these words with “I suggest,” which reflects confidence and authority. Establishing credibility and professionalism from the outset of your career is an invaluable asset.

“Be brave, be bold and take risks” is the advice Kate advocates to aspiring business leaders reading this article. Living in the “digital age anything is possible,” Kate encourages students to connect with a strong sponsor to share ideas and confide in – a process which can be an invaluable “two-way learning curve”.  There is a large difference between a mentor and a sponsor, you need both according to Kate. A sponsor will be someone who has clout and vouches for you when you are not in the room, while a mentor can provide guidance and support through their career path.

Simultaneously, Kate points to the trend of employers researching candidates to screen CVs, being social media savvy is more important than ever, as future employers can obtain their “first digital impression” of employment candidates with just one click. She advises to be cautious with what you post online as it will be picked up as part of the initial CV screening process.  Post graduating, keep connected with your local alumni association,  this also provides an opportunity to give back to the current student base in the form of speaking at career meetings or mentorship. Kate maintains that Ireland has an incredible education system that allows us to work globally. 

Message from Kate –

If you are reading this and are based in Singapore or are considering a move, please feel free to reach out to the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore to help you hit the ground running – https://www.irishchamber.com.sg/

Butterfly – Trinity’s New Social Media Start-up

Butterfly is a new social media concept, created with the mission of negating biases and connecting people through shared interests. The primary objective of Butterfly is to connect users over events that relate to their specific interests. For someone with an interest in fitness and art, the app might suggest a photo walk in St Stephen’s Green, a group jog the Phoenix Park, or painting seascapes at Dun Laoghaire harbour.

Functionally, the app is quite straightforward. Users input their information, build a profile, and navigate events on the app’s map-like interface. The idea is built around user anonymity. Users are connected based solely on shared interests. Users do not know who will be in attendance until they arrive at the events. This has been implemented with the objective of safeguarding against bias by removing the opportunity to judge others based on perceived racial, cultural, or economic status.

For safety reasons, people may be intimidated by the prospect of meeting a group of strangers. The plus one feature incorporated by Butterfly allows users to include a friend in the event without making other attendees feel too excluded. The group dynamic is a defining point for Butterfly as they believe as it is less intimidating than meeting strangers one on one, as people do with their competitor apps, Tinder, Friender and Bumble.

The Team

Butterfly’s team is currently two members strong, consisting of Seamus Conlon and David Kubala. Seamus is a 3rd year Global Business student with start-up expertise in the field of software development and enterprise software sales. Dave is a 3rd year Computer Science student known for his graphic design work and is proficient in Python, Java, Dart, C#, C++, and Objective-C programming skills. They was inspired to create the idea during a discussion about race following the Black Lives Matter movement in America.

Where They Are Now

Over the past two months, Seamus and David have accomplished a number of early milestones. Their initial market research included 500 responses and yielded promising results regarding their target market’s enthusiasm for the project. Using the feedback gained from the survey, Dave refined the app to coincide with relevant design queues.

Butterfly’s functional minimum variable product (MVP) is now ready for testing with a small group of users and the team is excited to gain more insight into what users would like to see in future versions. Butterfly has benefited greatly from the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society’s Incubator experience as they have had access to experts to help them refine strategy and realise their vision. They highly recommend the programme to all students studying in Trinity.

Plans For The Future

Butterfly hope to conduct alpha testing on an MVP of the app and develop a research report from the findings within two months. At the same time, they are looking to get letters of intent from local businesses that will promote their venues on their platforms when it goes live.

In the longer term, Butterfly aim to launch the app exclusively to Trinity students in 2021, after which they will conduct further research and refinement of the platform for a Version 2. This will be released to all college students in Dublin, and later to the general public. Butterfly plan to firstly release to college students because their market research indicates that this group is the most enthusiastic for this idea and Butterfly hope to gain traction here before expanding outwards.

Get In Touch

If you would like to volunteer for alpha testing for Butterfly’s product or are interested in promoting your venue on Butterfly, please email Seamus at the following address: Seconlon@tcd.ie

Skills you need in order to succeed in a post-coronavirus business world

The business world is dynamic in nature and so the skills that are needed to thrive in this world also continue to evolve, from navigation skills to IT skills and much more. To handle the aftermath of Covid-19, we need to adapt and evolve, as the business world does. So, what competencies will be most important in the next few years? What are the skills needed to succeed in the near future?

Communication 

Communication is the key to success. Working in this world is bound to involve constantly working with other people. As a result, it is important for individuals to have good communication skills. In order to achieve that, you must first be an active listener before being a good speaker.

Companies all around the world seek employees, who are active listeners, strong public speakers and have superior verbal, written and presentation skills. In fact, now as the world moves into the digital ‘Zoom’ environment, it is more important than ever.

If the business world continues to stay online for the next few years, as predicted by many, you might want to work on those skills. As the likes of KPMG and Deloitte continue to carry out their work online, they will demand their employees to be active speakers and active listeners. So, next time you attend your online lecture – speak up, turn that camera on and work on those skills!

These expertise will never be unnecessary or unimportant. Whether we like it or not, we will have to communicate with people for the rest of our lives. There are also hundreds of great short courses on how to become better at this – check out corporatetraining.ie and professionaldevelopment.ie for more!

Technical Skills 

Without technology we cannot work nor study in today’s world. Some examples of increasingly necessary technological competencies include knowledge of programming languages, design programs, data analysis, or even basic presentation-making skills.

Once again, many companies demand these skills, as they can help employees and businesses become more resilient to future pandemics. People who know how to use IT will be crucial to all companies in the next few years, not just in the business world, but in law, manufacturing and many other disciplines and industries.

Do not be afraid if your IT skills are not perfect! There are lots of certifications and online courses that can help you learn such as MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) or CAP (Certified Analytics Professional). Take advantage of the free resources that are out there. Countless inspirational talks, webinars, articles, podcasts, and videos are available online for free – make sure to check them out.

Creativity 

In the past year, we have all seen the importance of constant innovation. The businesses that were able to come up with creative ways to offer their services to customers have shown how important it is to be original and inventive in today’s environment and adapt to this dynamic world. 

Due to global restrictions and lockdowns, Airbnb and Bumble collaborated in an effort to encourage people to try virtual dating. With millions of people using video calling services like Zoom to meet while in isolation, Airbnb and Bumble managed to bring their customers together in a virtual date setting. This is just one of many examples of how companies are adapting to the current situation – creative right? 

There are loads of ways to improve your own creativity: 

  • Brainstorm; 
  • Shifts negative thoughts into a positive mindset; 
  • Avoid being a perfectionist; 
  • Watch stimulating videos (TED talks); 
  • Determine your goals; 
  • Surround yourself with nature 

Trinity offers a number of creativity and innovation modules to undergraduate business students. However, if you want to step up your game, there are numerous programs online and face-to-face to improve these skills, including the postgraduate certificate in Creative Thinking, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, ran by Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace.

Leadership 

If the business world stays online for the foreseeable future, more people at all levels in companies will find themselves in a position where they have to lead others and work on group cohesiveness; bringing everyone together. Being self-aware is particularly important during these challenging times.

Professionals with strong leadership skills and the ability to bring out the best and inspire teams as well as encourage them, will be in serious demand. A number of tips on to improve your leadership skills include:

  • Being decisive 
  • Being visionary 
  • Analysing your strengths and weaknesses 
  • Showing a willingness to seek input from others
  • Problem solving
  • Seeking to boost your own self-confidence 

There are also online courses in DBS, UCD, and FutureLearn – check them out!

Commit to a Lifetime of Learning 

It is important to note, that the only way to remain skilled in a post-coronavirus world, is to commit to a lifetime of learning. It is very likely, that the skills needed in the business world will be change more than once in the coming years. 

Improving your skills has never been easier – there are so many resources online on how to become better at certain things. Search for the skills you want to develop and check out platforms such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, or FutureLearn as well.

If you have some spare time during the next few weeks, work on your self-development – it will definitely help you in the future.

Stay safe and innovative! 

Hungary and Poland block ground-breaking EU budget

While conflict and drama are not uncommon during negotiations for the EU’s seven-year budget, this week’s round of negotiations were notably tense. The stakes were higher and the implications of deadlock more consequential than ever, with the EU’s largest ever budget and historic Covid-19 recovery fund hanging in the balance.

What is the issue with the plan?

The €1.1 trillion budget, along with the €750 billion recovery fund, has been vetoed in the European Council. Hungary and Poland have blocked the historic deal, which required multiple rounds of negotiation with the European Parliament, due to the budget’s rule of law conditionality mechanism. This aspect of the budget has birthed protest from the two countries, who insist that their regimes operate democratically. They claim the EU’s rule of law requirements are extremely vague, and that linking them to EU funding “jeopardises trust” within the bloc.

In reality, both governments are opposed to the clause because it ties the receipt of EU funding to the EU’s rule of law requirements which, to varying degrees, Hungary and Poland are both in breach of. The two countries are currently being investigated by the EU for undermining the independence of courts, the press and NGOs within their borders. If the rule of law mechanism is implemented, it could cost them billions of euros in EU funding.

How have they blocked the budget?

The EU’s long-term budget is initially formulated by the European Commission. Then, it is usually amended by the European Council, who send it to the European Parliament for debate and approval. If it is rejected in Parliament, the Council make further amendments. Once approved in Parliament, the final draft of the budget must be approved unanimously by the European Council, before being sent off for ratification in national parliaments.

The clause was initially accepted by the European Council, because only a qualified majority was required to link rule of law adherence to EU funding. However, the budget needs unanimous approval in the Council to be passed. Every country in the EU has the power to veto legislation under this voting system, which has famously caused problems in the past. Poland and Hungary have withheld their consent to sign off on the finalised legislation.

What does rejection of the budget mean?

Most significantly, it means that an agreement is unlikely to be reached before January. The Parliament will not offer any more opinion on the rule of law mechanism, declaring it an internal Council dispute.

This news comes at a time where EU funding is desperately needed. EU economies have been significantly damaged by a second wave of Covid-19, and the support brought by the Covid-19 recovery fund in January would be warmly welcomed. Quite ironically, Poland and Hungary are two countries who could benefit the most from the fund being promptly distributed, particularly if they do adhere to the rule of law, as they claim.

Significantly, the dispute is likely to affect other EU policy areas. The most immediate example is the likely delay of the EU finalising its climate change plan. Talks are due to take place from December 10-11, but a plan cannot be made without the financial stability that a finalised long-term budget will bring. Again, Poland is ironically set to be the biggest beneficiary of the EU’s €17.5 billion Just Transition Fund, designed to help economies deal with the shift from fossil-fuel to renewable energy dependent economies.

However, EU leaders have said that they will continue to insist on linking EU funding to rule of law adherence. Angela Merkel also assured the EU that talks with Poland and Hungary would push forward and find a way to overcome the Council’s deadlock. Hungary’s Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, too is confident that the issue will be resolved, indifferently stating that this is “how it [EU negotiation] usually goes”. He is likely correct, but time is of the essence.

Covid-19 Vaccine News Sparks Market Rally

Investors showed confidence in the market last week as certain stocks hit all-time highs. This bull market comes on the back of positive news in the race to find a vaccine for Covid-19, which has been responsible for putting many countries into output crushing lockdowns. Investors are betting that the vaccine developed by Pfizer in collaboration with Germany’s BioNtech could be the key to ending the pandemic.

Investor confidence was also given a boost when it became clear that Democrat Joe Biden would become the next US President. Investors see this as a return to predictable policy-making especially in combination with a Republican controlled Senate. A Republican Senate would make it very difficult for any radical regulatory or tax changes to be enacted, giving investors more confidence.

Market Records

The apparent turning point in the fight against the Covid-19 and the election of Joe Biden have given investors the chance to look beyond the current crisis. So-called “stay-at-home” stocks such as Zoom and Netflix fell sharply while the stocks hit the hardest by lockdowns such as British Airways rose 16% on Monday. Last week saw the largest capital inflow into equity markets in past twenty years according to The Financial Times. $44.5 billion worth of US stocks were bought in the first half of the week. This growth came mostly from large institutional investors such as pension funds. Smaller retail investors accounted for just $3.3 billion of inflows. Extremely low interest rates and the promise of more fiscal stimulus will have also played a part in the rally.

Yield Curve Growth

The yield curve on U.S Treasury Bonds – the difference in interest rates between long-term and short-term bonds – which can be an accurate measure of the likelihood of a future recession grew from 0.57% to 0.77% signifying growing investor confidence. The steeping yield curve will help banks who borrow for the short term and lend for the long term.

The Winners and Losers

The stock price rally was the most visible in what are known as value-stocks. The performance of these stocks is more linked with the overall performance of the economy as opposed to individual companies. This has meant that tech stocks did not see the same rise with the tech heavy NASDAQ index actually falling a percentage point. This bucks the trend seen over the decade as value stocks have been unable to produce the same yields as growth stocks.

Market Challenges

There are still many reasons for investors to remain cautious. Attention will inevitably turn to the complex roll out of any new vaccines. It appears for the short term that European countries will have variations of lockdowns that have suppressed economic activity in order to suppress the virus. Germany’s health minister confirmed on Saturday that “severe restrictions” would be in place for the next 4-5 months. The U.S has seen its largest daily case figure of 155,000. The incumbent President Donald Trump has vowed that there would be no lockdown, however the incoming President may be more cautious.

Gradlife with Orla Comerford

This week on the Gradlife podcast Kate spoke to Orla Comerford, an Irish Paralympic athlete, who is currently focused on the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

They discuss the Orla’s journey from the Leaving Cert to the 2016 Rio games, where she represented Ireland for the first time on the international stage. Orla speaks about how disappointing herself in Rio motivated her into the next phase of her competitive career.

They also discuss recovering from injury, training during Covid-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games. The podcast also touches on studying at NCAD and how Orla has managed to balance college with her athletic career.

Socialify: Designed to Create Disruption Through Digital Strategy

Speaking to co-founder Ethan Monkhouse, Trinity Business Review gained an exclusive insight into digital strategy and business during a pandemic. Founded in April 2018, Socialify is a digital marketing agency concerned with psychological digital marketing. Their work focuses on creating bespoke digital strategies for businesses through content creation, paid traffic campaigns and social media management. 

The Team

Socialify’s founders are Trinity student Ethan Monkhouse and his business partner Killian O’Neill. Ethan is a Computer Science and Business student, while Killian is studying Sustainable Energy Engineering, Energy Management and Systems Technology at Cork Institute of Technology.

Director of Business Development Ethan and Director of Marketing Killian decided to commercialise and bring together their respective interests in film and Killian’s passion for photography to birth Socialify.

Where They Are Now

While countless businesses found themselves in deep waters as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Socialify experienced the opposite. Due to the necessity of an online presence during COVID-19, many small businesses came to Socialify to increase their online reach.

With campaigns often generating in excess of €250,000 in revenue for clients, and with a portfolio of more than 15 clients, Socialify has seen great success. As Socialify grows, due to the constraint in regards to the scale of the local workforce, they now outsource projects to subcontractors. Even prior to the pandemic, Socialify worked almost entirely remotely, so transitioned seamlessly into the new wave of widespread online working.

Plans for the Future

Socialify is continuing to scale up year on year. With both founders being full-time students, during the academic year Socialify focuses solely on social media management and paid traffic retainers, with their main clients including car dealerships such as Lexus and Toyota, as well as marine companies both nationally and within Europe.

Meanwhile, the summer months see a restructuring of Socialify, with summer 2020 seeing their biggest project to date; building e-commerce stores.

Get in Touch

Interview with Mr. Conor O’Kelly – CEO of the NTMA

By Victoria O’Connor

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global community on the broadest of spectrums. One area that has increasingly been overlooked is the impact the crisis is having on student entrepreneurs, their motivations to launch businesses and their ability to establish new enterprises. I recently interviewed Mr. Conor O’Kelly to discuss how new and evolving hurdles have challenged youth-led enterprises as they learn to sink or swim.

Conor, a proud Trinity alumni, is the Chief Executive of the National Treasury Management Agency. He has an extensive range of experience ranging from former Chairman of Investec Holdings (Ireland) Ltd to Chief Executive of NCB Group. He is also a former director of the Irish Stock Exchange. Conor studied ESS (today’s BESS) in Trinity. During his college years, Conor embraced student life representing Trinity in both rugby and golf, two passions which he still holds today. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1982 and the first student to be awarded a prestigious scholarship to Senshu University in Tokyo, Japan, where he completed a master’s degree.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is having a profound impact on the global economy, commercial markets and consumer behaviour. I asked Conor his thoughts on the repercussions of lockdowns and if we’re moving towards a society where the average consumer will no longer shop on the high street. He sees the issue as two fold, firstly, the pandemic’s role in shifting consumer behaviour and secondly, the trends that are developing from the global remote working experience.

It is important for young entrepreneurs to separate and identify the short-term repercussions of the pandemic from the permanent trends that are materialising. Businesses are either on the “right side or wrong side of the digital divide”. Conor sees the challenge for businesses as keeping up with the acceleration of the market shift from “bricks” to “clicks”.  As the pandemic unfolds, existing trends in the market have been accelerated dramatically, Conor describes it as “time traveling forward to 2030”.  Young entrepreneurs must respond and be experimental and innovative in not only with what their enterprise can offer the consumer but also how they can connect, engage and sustain a customer base.

Shifts in Consumer Spending and Attitudes

The pandemic is changing city centres around the world in irreversible ways. The global “working-from-home experiment” has meant consumer spending has shifted from city centres to local communities. City centre businesses whose success is based on a commuter workforce are going to be adversely impacted by this crisis. One strategy for centrally located enterprises is to focus less on their traditional presence and increase efforts towards driving consumers towards their online channels.

Young entrepreneurs aspiring to operate in retail outlets, must take steps to build consumer trust by adapting to the new health and safety expectations in the community. It is both a responsibility as well as an opportunity for business owners to provide a “safe environment” where consumers are comfortable with the risk, thereby encouraging shoppers to return. Conor opines that emerging technology is likely to be a prominent method in which business owners can confidently deliver on this. Scientists at Oxford University have developed a COVID-19 test that can produce a result in less than 5 minutes. While logistically implementing this at scale may be difficult, it demonstrates the potential for businesses to establish COVID-free spaces.

Opportunities and Challenges Facing Young Entrepreneurs

As the pandemic increasingly pushes consumers towards the world of e-commerce, Conor considers this as a golden opportunity for young entrepreneurs to maximize the opportunity presented by changing consumer behaviours.  A report by Digital Business Ireland found that 74 per cent of shoppers surveyed have been put off by the queues, capacity limits and social distancing requirements in stores. Most young entrepreneurs form the large part of the digital generation, Conor sees them as possessing an “intuitive sense” of how to understand the online spending pattern and behaviours of today’s consumer.

Overall, the pandemic has had a tremendously adverse impact on SME’s who face a unique and difficult challenge for survival. In spite of the turbulence caused by the crisis, a number of companies have improvised, adapted and thrived. Conor provides insight into the ways in which student enterprises can mirror the resilience and success of global companies – “if a business has a good product, they will be able to access distribution channels and will be encouraged to do so”.  Amazons “shop local scheme” is just one example of a global platform opening up access to local businesses.

Reimagining Business – The Role of Technology

Young entrepreneurs must seek opportunity for reinvention and differentiation in times of market disruption. Zoom, an app that was available 9 years ago and largely unknown, has emerged as one of the leading platforms for businesses to ensure their teams can function and communicate effectively and is now worth approximately €25bn.

Encouraging consumers to adopt new products is one of the most challenging obstacles for new businesses to overcome according to Conor. The world has experienced a simultaneous collective grief like no other, and consumer behaviour has changed as a result of it.  We’re living through “seismic societal change “, and the opportunities are endless for the entrepreneurs who successfully identify opportunities and react to consumer demands and expectations living in the “new normal”.

Technology is playing a key role in reducing barriers to business entry for young entrepreneurs launching businesses, it opens a window towards perpetual innovation. Before the internet, start-ups faced costly processes of finding and operating a premise, ordering stock and paying for licenses etc. Now, with an ability to eliminate the majority of traditional overhead costs, online opportunities are increasingly available and more accessible than ever.

Risks Facing Young Entrepreneurs

The short-comings of e-commerce are exposing the difficulties many entrepreneurs face in connecting emotionally with their consumer base to establish loyalty. One recommendation Conor offers is for young entrepreneurs to enhance, augment and personalize the online shopping experience for their consumers.

Providing consumers with an enriched experience by connecting with them is likely to establish both brand loyalty and brand awareness, these can be developed as competitive tools for new and adapting enterprises.

Creativity, imagination and innovative marketing ideas can be driving factors that enable organisations to connect with their target market, and are crucial constituents for young entrepreneurs in 2020.  In the dawn of the internet, any brand can instantly become a viral sensation or a viral nightmare. Companies must prioritise developing and protecting their online reputation as the image of an enterprise is more pertinent than ever before. Citing being on the “wrong side” of a sustainability issue or exercising “greenwashing” as examples,  Conor explains how reputational risk can threaten the survival of the business itself. With a global audience comes a global risk. Money talks, but it’s the consumer who decides where that money goes. In an increasingly cashless society,  a transaction is only a click away with the consumer in ultimate control – that’s a powerful concept at scale.

Advice

Most young entrepreneurs with innovative business concepts face obstacles without the benefit of having a lived experience. Against the backdrop of the current pandemic, youth-led enterprises should adapt and find experience and partners that can help. Conor advises them to take advantage of opportunities to learn from others, whether it’s through a mentor, alumni or listening to podcasts from industry leaders. The perspective and insight of others added to the imagination and creativity of student entrepreneurs is a powerful combination.

Gradlife with Gabriel Ogundipe

This week on Gradlife, Kate spoke to Gabriel Ogundipe. Gabby is a Trinity MSISS graduate (2020) who is currently working at a fintech company, Checkout.com. 

During his time at Trinity, Gabriel co-founded a start-up, Luminary Hub, securing a place in the Trinity Launchbox programme, placed in the world finals of a case competition in New York, and was the vice-president of the Irish Student Consulting Group. Gabby also secured the George Moore scholarship to complete a masters in the US upon graduating from college. 

They talk about motivations, the importance of extra-curriculars in college, job applications, and more. 

JMK Consulting: A Trinity Start-Up Focused On All Things Pandemic

After the pandemic took hold and thousands of business were facing forced closure due to government restrictions, JMK Consulting was set up with the aim of helping businesses traverse the ever changing landscape of COVID Payments, Business Restart, Restart Plus Loans, Grants and supports. JMK Consulting also advises businesses on Employers PUP Payments, Employee / Customer COVID Protection, training and responsibilities for the duration of the pandemic, which will be with us for the foreseeable future.

The JMK Mission Statement is “To help business remain and recover during the largest global medical and economic crisis in a century while [their] vision is to act as an enabler for businesses now and in the future.”

The Team

The JMK team consists of Joseph Keegan, Principle Consultant, who has 25 years experience in Researching and Consulting on IT Systems and Technology Grants through JMK Computer Support Services, dealing with Manufacturing, Services and Academic Industries. Along with three recent IT & Project Management degrees he has also just graduated from Trinity Tangent, Ideas Workspace Programme, Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Thinking, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Mr. Keegan is currently attending the E-Labs Innovation Programme with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Tangent, in conjunction with University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) and EIT Health WHO.

Ray Crean, Principle Researcher, who also shares the same BSc (Hons) in Information Systems and Postgraduate Certificate both from Trinity College Dublin and has wide experience in Corporate Compliance and Board Level Membership.

Where They Are Now

JMK have successfully consulted on the reopening, staffing and grant aiding of two hospitality businesses to the tune of €50,000, both of which are now starting to gain a following and traction again, despite the recent risk of not being able to open again, at great loss to the owners and staff.

With the movement of government restrictions to Level 5, JMK are now focusing their attention on building up their knowledge base as to how to enable businesses to reopen in the future.

Plans For The Future

Given the global acceptance that the pandemic will remain relevant for at least another 12-18 months, JMK client offerings will be even more important and they intend to continue to provide a non-biased point of view in every respect of maintaining businesses through these unchartered waters.

The long-term goal for JMK is to expand into all industries and become a business of excellence with regards to the ‘new normal’ of what they see becoming the “Hybrid Economy both for Business Owners and Employees” when all of this passes.

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EthiCart: The Trinity Start-Up Focused On Promoting Sustainable Shopping

EthiCart is a user-friendly app that provides consumers with easily digestible information about the sustainable or ethical attributes of food products they have selected by simply scanning the product’s barcode. Amongst other educational features, EthiCart removes the confusions around the many different certifications on packaging by explaining these clearly, thus enabling their users to become more conscious and educated consumers.

EthiCart aims to empower the growing community of people who want to shop sustainably and buy products aligned with their values. EthiCart offers quick, easy to understand information, and suggests more sustainable alternatives where possible, helping you become a more conscious consumer. EthiCart is committed to making sustainability simple.

The Team

EthiCart’s founders are Trinity students Laura Brennan and Lara Páircéir. Laura is a final year Computer Science & Business student and Lara is taking a year off books from Sociology & Social Policy. They both share a passion for sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

They participated in Tangent’s LaunchBox in the Summer of 2019 and have since been featured in ‘Ireland’s 30 under 30: Best and Brightest Young Entrepreneurs’, awarded the Blackstone LaunchPad Summer Fellowship and are finalists in the Irish Student Entrepreneurship Forum.

Where They Are Now

EthiCart have launched the first version of the app in Trinity this September, starting small with the products supplied on campus available on the app. The homepage of the app includes blogs, articles, recipes etc. to keep their users informed and engaged. They also have lots of fantastic tips & tricks for what to look out for when shopping sustainably, which anyone can avail of, and some handy Trinity tailored features. Click here to download now!  

Plans For The Future

Small acts when multiplied can transform the world. EthiCart is looking forward to seeing their user base grow by scaling into more mainstream supermarkets so that they can get as many people shopping sustainably as possible.

Get In Touch

EthiCart believe that when sustainability is mixed with enterprise and an amazing community real change can be achieved. Follow their growing online community @ethicart_app on Instagram and Twitter.

The Demise Of Dairy

The Unstoppable Rise of the Alternative Milk and what it means for the Dairy Industry

By Eleni O’ Dwyer

It is hard now to imagine a time when you couldn’t go into your local coffee shop and order yourself an oat milk flat white. It seems impossible now, but before the age of almond milk cappuccinos, for the unfortunate lactose intolerants around us, there was no alternative to cow’s milk other than to simply not drink it.

As recently as ten years ago, the only real alternative to cow’s milk was soya milk, and even that required searching in rare health-food shops. Today, however, the alternative milk industry is estimated to be worth approximately €14 billion globally. UK plant milk sales have grown by 30% since 2015, and nearly half of all consumers in the US are now opting for non-dairy milks.

In the sea of alternative milks ranging from hazelnut to cashew to coconut milks, almond milk remains the most bought, making up two thirds of all plant milks sold. However, oat milk is the fastest-growing category of alternative milk. From April 2018 to April 2019, the Swedish oat milk brand Oatly grew by 222%. The rapid transformation of Oatly from a little-known, obscure health brand to the dairy alternative of choice surprised even CEO Toni Petersson, saying; “[h]ow do we supply when the growth is crazy?”.

This ‘crazy’ growth has been a result of an overwhelming increase in health-consciousness. The rise of vegetarian and vegan diet choices, and the general societal push for sustainability, has undeniably changed consumer habits. The surge of the wellness movement across all facets of society has created what Oatly has labelled the “post-milk generation” as Millennial and Generation Z consumers account for more and more of the overall market. Research has shown that UK teenagers now consider cow’s milk less healthy than dairy alternatives; a phenomenon that David Dobbin, former chairman of Dairy UK, has described as “a demographic time bomb”.

But alternative milks are not a purely modern phenomenon. In 1981, Philippe Vandemoortele, a Belgian food technician, used a new packing technology, the Tetra Brik, to sell his own soya milk which he called Alpro. His local supermarket refused to stock it. Today, Vandemoortele’s Alpro is owned by Danone, and in 2017 had a turnover of more than £183 million.

Meanwhile, the superfood reputation of cow’s milk is under pressure due to ever-growing concerns around animal cruelty and the dairy industry’s environmental impact. This is accompanied by an increase in lactose intolerance diagnosis, and new links between dairy products and hormone-related conditions, such as acne and premature puberty, according to Dr. Michael Greger, author of the book “How Not to Die”. For Ireland’s agriculturally dependent
economy, this presents valid fears for the future of dairy.

The dairy industry accounts for around €1.2 billion of the Irish economy annually, with the average Irish family consuming over 6 litres of milk per week. Domestic milk intake in 2019 was just shy of 8 billion litres of milk, according to the Central Statistics Office. This was in fact 400 million litres more than the 7.6 billion litres of milk recorded for the previous year. Moreover, the EU saw a 0.5% jump in milk intake in 2019.

As countless industries have been stifled over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish dairy industry has had room to grow. A survey of over 2,000 adults in June 2020 showed that almost 40% of Irish consumers under the age of 35 increased their milk, cheese and yoghurt consumption since the outbreak of the pandemic, with people seeking familiarity and quality during uncertain times. Even pre-pandemic, 90% of plant milk buyers still purchased other dairy products, such as cheese, yoghurt and ice cream, all of whom are seeing increases in demand.

So, it seems that the milk traditionalists of the dairy industry do not have much cause for worry. While the alternative milk industry has gained huge traction, in reality, it is not superseding the dairy industry. Rather, the two are working alongside one another, both growing year on year. Instead of one milk emerging triumphant, the ambit of what consumers look to for milk simply expands to encompass all.

What the EU Court Ruling On The Apple-Ireland Tax Case Means

By Isha Neurgaonkar

On 15th July, the European General Court in Luxembourg ruled that the Republic of Ireland did not give Apple illegal state aid, reversing the decision of the European Commission. In 2016, the Commission stated that Ireland broke EU state aid rules by granting undue tax benefits to Apple. It had ordered the Irish government to collect €13.4 billion of unpaid taxes from 2003–2014.
    
What happened? 
Ireland has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the EU (12.5%). It is Apple’s base for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2016, the European Commission said that Ireland had allowed Apple to attribute nearly all of its EU earnings to an Irish head office that only existed on paper, thereby avoiding paying tax on EU revenues. The Commission declared this constituted illegal aid given to Apple by the Irish state. The Irish government argued that Apple should not have to repay the taxes, deeming that its loss was worth it to make the country an attractive home for large companies.


In 2014, Apple’s Irish structure consisted of two subsidiaries, Apple Operations Ireland (AOI), an Irish-registered holding company and the Apple Sales International (ASI) an Irish-registered subsidiary of Apple Operations Europe (AOE). Apple did not follow the Double Irish structure by using two separate Irish companies but instead used two separate branches inside one single company, ASI. The EU Commission alleged this was illegal state aid. This structure was not offered to other multinationals in Ireland, which had used the traditional “two separate companies” version.


The Commission argued that the rulings allowed Apple to make most of its European sales through an employee-less head office, which was non-resident for tax purposes. Only the activities of the Irish branches within the same units were subject to tax in Ireland. The intellectual property behind Apple products lay inside these Irish branches, signifying that most of the profits were taxable by Revenue. Apple argued that it was held outside the branches and controlled by the group headquarters. 


What next? 
A report from the OECD predicts that the rate of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) internationally may fall by 30-40% as companies re-evaluate their strategies post the COVID 19 pandemic. FDI has been an integral part of the Irish economic strategy since the 60s. To this day, the Irish economy is still reliant on FDI. Eduardo Baistrocchi, a professor of tax law at the London School of Economics, described Ireland as a “non-G20 hub in the international tax system” to DW. He then explained that Non-G20 hubs are “a group of countries that connect multinational enterprises (MNEs) with market jurisdictions to minimise the tax entry and tax exit costs of the MNEs. Ireland connected Apple with markets across all continents. Baistrocchi also remarked that “in 2014, for every $1 million of profit that Apple earned from its European operations, Apple paid $50 tax in Europe: an effective tax rate of 0.005%.”

According to both Baistrocchi and Liz Nelson at the Tax Justice Network, this problem is global. Baistrocchi comments that the tax-hub model is not prohibited by the international tax regime. Thus, the international tax regime is “broken” due to the power and influence of big multinationals like Apple. While the General Court said that there were “inconsistencies” and “defects” with Revenue’s approach, the Commission failed to show that the outcome was flawed and that Apple paid less tax than it should have. The ruling of the court has since been appealed by the European
Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court.

In the current global politico-economic scenario (where all countries are fighting to gain more in an environment of uncertain economic globalisation), abiding by the rules of geopolitical organisations like the EU and implementing strong FDI policies are both important factors for the growth trajectory of relatively smaller economies like Ireland. Ultimately, balancing these factors correctly could help both national and global economies and businesses thrive.

Are The Days Of The Traditional Workweek Numbered?

By Ruadhán Glover

In recent months, COVID-19 has given rise to economic disaster for countless companies across the globe. Millions of people have lost their jobs, while those businesses who have managed to survive the economic crash thus far face the daunting challenge of controlling and mitigating the upset to all facets of their operations. However, amidst the huge disruptions to workplace and societal norms brought on by COVID-19, the potential for increasingly flexible models of work has been inadvertently highlighted. The idea of a four-day workweek is one such model which is currently shifting from the fringes to the mainstream with growing momentum. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently endorsed the idea of a shorter workweek as a method of increasing employee welfare and productivity in these trying times. Likewise, the results of a survey published by the Four Day Week Ireland campaign this week revealed that over three-quarters of people would support the government researching the potential of a four-day work week. But what exactly does a four-day workweek entail, and is it really possible to increase productivity by working less?

What is a four-day workweek?

Many common misconceptions surround the model of a four-day workweek, predominantly that it merely involves the compressing of a forty-hour workweek into four days rather than five. An authentic four-day workweek involves employees reducing, rather than compressing, their number of hours worked per week by approximately eight, in the hope of driving productivity out of such flexibility. Furthermore, progressive models of the shortened workweek should not include any reductions of salaries. If, as a result of greater productivity stemming from a shortened workweek, an employer’s bottom line is actually improving, then it is arguably unreasonable to cut the wages of those responsible for the increase in efficiency. A trial of the shorter workweek model by Microsoft in their Japan base in August 2019 reported a 40% increase in productivity during this period. With greater control over when and how they work, employees are more concentrated on the quality of their tasks, and less on how frequently they are working.
The recent momentum behind the concept of the four-day workweek has come on the back of workers need for flexible work arrangements during the Covid-19 crisis. However, this is not the first time in history that the length of a typical workweek has seen a drastic reduction.

In the final decade of the 19th century, it was estimated that an average factory floor employee in the US worked 100 hours per week. However, by the mid-20th century, a mere 60 years later, this had been reduced to the current standard 40-hour workweek. When put in such context, the reduction of our workweek by eight hours isn’t nearly as extreme as first seemed.


Additional Employer Benefits

Employees are not the only beneficiaries of a shortened workweek. In addition to the aforementioned increase in productivity that can be obtained through the model, a four-day workweek presents employers with the opportunity to diversify their pools of talent by attracting those who cannot, for various reasons, work the traditional five-day workweek. Furthermore, employers can safeguard their future talent through the provision of flexible work arrangements. Now, more than ever, young working professionals are placing great emphasis on their own wellbeing. Millennials are drawn to employment perks such as flexible working hours in addition to traditional pension and bonus benefits. The implementation of a four-day workweek can consequently greatly enhance an employer’s ability to attract and maintain the best and brightest workers in the industry.


Additional Societal Benefits

In addition to the aforementioned benefits to both productivity and employee wellbeing, a four-day workweek also has the positive effects of promoting both equality in the workplace and a more positive carbon footprint. The pressure to abide by gender roles and to take responsibility for household welfare sees many women excluded from the workplace. According to Gender Pay Gap research, the largest barrier for women in paid employment across the board is the struggle to balance work with family responsibilities. A four-day workweek would encourage the sharing of these responsibilities among partners, while allowing workers to balance their work commitments and family responsibilities. Furthermore, from an environmental perspective, a four-day workweek would have a more
positive effect on the national carbon footprint. The use of office spaces for shorter periods of time would result in a lower output of energy, while removing just one day of worker commutes could greatly assist in the reduction of damaging carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, Microsoft Japan’s one-month trial saw their electricity costs alone decrease by 25%.


Will we see any change?

It is quite feasible that when Covid-19 passes, we may plead to return to work five days a week in order to regain a sense of normality. However, if nothing else, this pandemic has presented employers with both the business reasons and the opportunity to transition to shorter work weeks. By creating a company that values employee wellbeing and productivity over hours put in, businesses can reap the rewards of working less hours. If we all finally give up on the idea that working longer will result in greater standards of business and life, the four-day work week could well become the latest shake up in a long list of changes to workplace and societal norms brought on by Covid-19. Indeed, maybe some good will finally come of this crisis.

Budget 2021: What We Know So Far

By Paul Ralph

  • Minister announces no changes to PAYE, USC or PRSI.
  • Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf calls for path to “sustainable debt” and a focus on building resilience to future shocks.
  • IBEC lobbies for gradual tapering of business supports into 2021 as opposed to a “cliff-edge” end.

Last Wednesday, the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed that there would be no changes to income tax, USC or PRSI. At a press briefing he explained that cabinet had agreed that increases in taxation would be counterproductive. The Minister wants to “give confidence to those earning income or who a have level of deposits in our economy” in a time of “heightened economic uncertainty”. The main focus of the government is the management of the Covid-19 crisis and the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year. This was made clear when the Minister explained that only “future budgets” would be guided by the commitments made in the Programme for Government agreed between the three governing parties. 

Minister Donohoe declined to rule out any possible changes to welfare payments.

Donohoe’s Fianna Fáil counterpart, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said that government spending this year would be 23% higher than forecasted due to the unprecedented scale of government intervention in the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic.   

The unpredictability of the current crisis is adding to the difficulty of planning a budget. Speaking to RTÉ news on Wednesday, Minister McGrath said he was currently working with officials to ascertain how much extra spending will be required next year for schools, the health service, new college places and the additional costs of reduced capacity public transport.   

On the same day, the Governor of the Central Bank Gabriel Makhlouf wrote to the Minister for Finance in his pre-Budget letter outlining what policy needs to focus on. In the letter, the Governor outlined three goals of policy:

  • Policy should focus on “supporting the productive capacity of the economy”.
  • Path to lower and sustainable debt will eventually have to be forged.
  • Continued “focus on building resilience to future shocks”.

Regarding the first point, Minister Donohoe has yet to introduce any labour market activation policies such as new training programmes. He is instead opting for the continuation of a reduced Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme until the end of the year. This has received condemnation from the opposition with Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin calling for the reintroduction of the €350 weekly payment in light of increased restrictions.  

The Central Bank Governor also advised against supporting loss-making enterprises, arguing that it was “not in the community’s interest”. However, it will be difficult for the government to distinguish what firms had an unsustainable business model entering this recession given its nature. The Governor recommended that the Government make provisions for business support grants. Also, he expects that debt will be an unattractive prospect for many SMEs because of the “scarring effect” of the previous crisis, banks’ reduced lending appetite and any debt overhang during the recovery. So far, the government has not yet hinted at any changes for the whole economy after Level 3 restrictions were introduced in Dublin last Friday. Nonetheless, the government committed to an extra €30 million in aid for businesses in the Capital.    

Covid-19 restrictions have hit SMEs extremely hard. The Government’s current emergency supports are due to end in the first half of 2021. In IBEC’s pre-budget submission they call for provisions to be made for the tapering of supports to avoid a cliff edge for thousands of businesses. The group said that the package of supports would need to be in the region of €6 billion on top of the €20 billion that will have been spent by the government on business supports by the first half of 2021.

According to IBEC’s chief economist, Ger Brady, who was speaking at the launch of the group’s pre-budget submission, the Government will run a deficit this year of about €30 billion. To give this figure more context, in 2019 there was a small surplus of €1.5 billion. The last time the deficit was so large was in 2011 when it hit €30.5 billion, starkly illustrating the extent to which the Irish economy is now reliant on government stimulus. 

A Guide For Incoming Freshers Of Business-Related Degrees

by Jody Murphy

Hello, and welcome! If you’re reading this article, I presume that you are one of two things, an incoming student, or, someone keen on reading insightful business-related content. If you fall into the first category, I hope this article will benefit you greatly as you progress through your first year of study. Anyone else may find that reading this article lacks relevance, and thus I encourage you to explore our website for content better suited to your interests.


I believe a congratulations are in order to all those successful in making it into Trinity’s Class of 2024! I hope this article will assist you in your navigation of academic and social life at Trinity. Although you have started your college career during a global pandemic, with the aid of technology, you can rest assured that it will have only a marginal impact on your life as an undergraduate.

Societies

Trinity is host to many great societies, but there are six focused specifically on business. It is important to note that there are no requirements for becoming a member of these societies. You don’t need to be studying a business-related degree, nor do you need any prior experience or credentials.

Trinity Student Managed Fund (SMF)

I spoke to this year’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Liam Collins.

“The SMF is Trinity’s premier society for finance, investing, and professional services. Traditionally we run workshops on investment research, trading and professional development alongside our fantastic, highly regarded sponsors. The SMF will be running as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible, running these events online for the first semester. Anyone interested in these workshops is encouraged to apply to be an Analyst on our website (http://www.trinitysmf.com/). Also online this semester will be our annual Women in Business Conference. We are looking forward to running some great events this semester, even with the new normal.”

Trinity Entrepreneur Society (TES)

I spoke to Daryne Kushnir, the society’s PRO.

“There are few societies in Trinity that have hatched multi-million-euro business ideas, but TES prides itself in being able to do so (if you have a multi-million idea, that is). We offer a steppingstone to young inventive students, who want to become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, through programs such as Incubator, Dragon’s Den and through various networking events. TES has always had a fantastic presence on campus, despite being only seven years old. We consistently gather around 2000 members each year, aided by our brilliant Fresher’s Week campaign and our high-quality, professional events. Continuing this standard online will be a challenge, but the current TES committee has worked unstintingly to organise exciting new events for the coming year. We’re starting off with an Information Night, for those new to the university (or anyone who would like to learn about the society in general), an event with Kingsley Aikins (a brilliant storyteller and the CEO of The Networking Institute) and some exciting competitions with goodies, to give students the Freshers Week buzz they might be missing this year. Our Incubator and Dragon’s Den competition will be held online, with applications coming soon. A chance to do these events from home means we can hopefully, gather more students to participate. Pitching and receiving professional guidance will now be a matter of logging onto Zoom and just showing up. We’re also running our Ambassadors program, with applications to come on our social media in the next two weeks. The best piece of advice we can give right now is to head over to Facebook and Instagram and give us a follow. All of our updates, Zoom links and goodie-competitions will be posted out there. We can’t wait to see some fresh new faces and ideas!”

Dublin University Business and Economics Society (DUBES)

The society’s PRO, Sarah Davis, and Careers Convenor, Ana Bellow, gave an introduction to the society.

“DUBES is one of Trinity’s oldest and largest societies founded in 1929. DUBES was established with one clear goal; to provide our members with access to academic, social and professional opportunities that will help prepare them for the professional world.  Although we are facing a significantly different challenge this year, like other successful organisations, we will adapt rather than buckle. As of now, popular social events like the BESS Ball and the Mystery Tour are on hold this year, but the reasons for joining our society are more compelling than ever. We have moved everything online for the upcoming Michaelmas term but have doubled the number of events held this year compared to last year. Our members will have access to an exciting line-up of speakers from companies such as Linkedin, Ernest and Young, Revolut, Salesforce and BP as well as a host of educational events throughout the calendar year. So, DUBES is taking a glass-half-full view of our enforced reality. We will continue planning in accordance with government regulations and guidelines and in the best interests of our members. Of course, if these regulations and guidelines are relaxed in future, DUBES will also begin hosting on-campus events and a range of social events. We are looking forward to engaging with our new members with a sense of hope and optimism. We remain upbeat. We are resilient. This year, Freshers Week will not have the same frenetic buzz that many of us were lucky enough to experience in the past, but Trinity societies still have plenty to offer. We are collaborating with Trinity Hall JCR for a virtual Freshers Week Social Event so keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook pages for more information. This is hopefully the first of more virtual social events, we are testing how we would be able to run them at the moment.  We will continue to innovate and excite. We will continue to provide the kind of opportunities that have enriched college life for so many students for so many years.”

Dublin University Consulting Society (DUCS)

A new addition to Trinity this year, Conor Perry, an active member of the Irish Student Consulting Group spoke to me about what this new society involves.

“DUCS is the Trinity branch of the Irish Student Consulting Group (ISCG). The ISCG aims to provide a platform for Ireland’s highest achieving students across all disciplines to get real-world business experience and insight into the world of consulting. Within Trinity, the DUCS will aim to attract the highest achieving students within the college and engage them in working with clients to help solve tangible business problems within a real-world business environment. Given the current pandemic, all consulting projects and events will be completed virtually. These include digital information meetings, networking evenings with our alumni network and the likely digitisation of the consulting competitions (both national and international) that DUCS intends to enter. We encourage all students to apply to join and attend one of our information evenings to learn more about the DUCS.”


Trinity’s Developer Student Club (TCD DSC)

Another new addition to Trinity this year, I spoke to society’s Marketing and Relations Lead, Alexandra Ichim.

“TCD DSC is a student-led tech community. It’s open to students from any course with an interest in using Google Developer technologies to solve real-world problems. We’ll be hosting events to cater to members of all skill levels throughout the year featuring talks from guest speakers, technology workshops and ongoing certification programs. TCD DSC is a great opportunity to connect with and learn from students across campus, all while making a real difference in your community. To join, follow the link in our bio on our Instagram account @tcddsc.”

Trinity Business Review (TBR)

Last but certainly not least, the Trinity Business Review. TBR is an online student-run publication that gives its readers unique insights into the business world. The review is an excellent way to meet people from a diverse range of courses and disciplines with an interest in the ever-changing business environment. We are always looking for new correspondents as well as Junior Fresh representatives so if you are interested in writing for TBR, or generating publicity for the review, send an email to trinitybusinessreview@gmail.com.

Modules

Getting to grips with the modules you are studying is essential to avoid any unnecessary confusion. I highly recommend that you use the links below to look up the modules you are taking.

Business modules can be found here:
https://www.tcd.ie/business/undergraduate/module-outlines/

Economics modules can be found here:
https://www.tcd.ie/Economics/undergraduate/modules/

Politics modules can be found here:
https://www.tcd.ie/Political_Science/undergraduate/module-outlines/

Sociology modules can be found here: https://www.tcd.ie/sociology/undergraduate/modules/

Law modules can be found here:
https://www.tcd.ie/law/programmes/undergraduate/modules/

Personal Experience

Recently I’ve been thinking about my first year as a BESS student, and I’ve come up with some advice that I hope you will find useful.

The first is to relax. Making the transition from an environment where you know a great number of people to one where you know few, can be an experience shadowed by anxiety and stress. You may find that prospect of going to your first in-person lecture, attending a society event or interacting with new people somewhat daunting. I can assure you that you are not the only one. It can take some time to fit into college life. The best way to speed this process up is to get involved. Why not become an ambassador for TES, an analyst for the SMF, a consultant for the DUCS or, a correspondent for the Trinity Business Review? You’re in the first year of your degree, there has never been a better time to get stuck in!

The second piece of advice relates to module selection. Towards the end of Hillary term, you will select your second-year modules. It’s important you know that whichever modules you choose to study for second year will determine which modules you can choose for third and fourth years. For example, if you are a BESS student and you chose not to study ‘Mathematical and Statistical Methods A & B’ for your second year, this will limit which economics modules you can study for third and fourth year.

I hope this article serves you well as you progress through Junior Fresh. Be sure to follow the Trinity Business Review on social media to learn of new articles as they are published. On behalf of the TBR team, I would like to wish you the best of luck throughout your years at Trinity.

Sustainability in Business, Sustainability as Business

By Ciarán Quinn

Before the pandemic consumed the eyes and ears of the world, the cry for the halt to climate change and destruction caused by the world’s economy was a silent wave coming to its peak. Whether it was a schoolgirl from Sweden being awarded Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for her efforts to raise awareness on the issue, or the hundreds of school strikes organized around the globe, a wary eye was cast once again on the efforts companies are making to heed these warnings. There are plenty of examples of companies who have blatantly disregarded their environmental responsibilities in the past. Take Volkswagen’s ‘Diesel gate’ or the continued deforestation of the Amazon by the likes of Costco and Walmart. It is clear from the profile of these companies, an auto industry powerhouse and the world’s largest company by revenue in 2019, that thus far sustainability is not something they feel is vital to the present and future success of their businesses. The likes of Ryanair have introduced a voluntary ‘carbon footprint offset fee’, which seems to try and give back through environmental schemes, rather than tackling or reducing the issue head-on. This all begs the question, is sustainability within business achievable? And is the notion of sustainability as a core business element constituent only possible as an allusion?


There are examples of hope to contrast the examples of doom mentioned above. Many household companies have embraced sustainability and the chances it creates, with different approaches to the issues allowing for innovation and creativity in this field. This has led to disruption and new improvements across all aspects of business. Whether it be supply chain or the product itself, sustainability is slowly being embraced across the board, although some companies have shown great agility in their conversion to sustainable practices also.


Adidas have concentrated on creating a greener supply chain, with a focus on reducing energy used and importantly water consumption- which has historically played a huge role in the fabric-dyeing process. This has been made possible through the reconfiguring of their production process with the implementation of ‘Drydye’ technology. Another project by Adidas is their collaboration with Parley, a non-profit organization to commit to creating shoes from 100% recycled polyester. This will be possible through a material called ‘primeblue’, which the two have collaborated on creating from plastics and polyesters recycled from the ocean. Another lifestyle-clothing stalwart is Nike, who have
focused on the introduction of recycled and reconstituted materials in their products. Most notably, 75% of the products produced by Nike partially contain some recycled material. This effort has culminated in the release of Nike’s ‘space hippie’ collection, which combines sustainability with radical design. The result is a fashionable sports lifestyle shoes made from between 85-90% recycled materials. Furthermore, Companies have focused on logistics to drive improvements. British supermarket Tesco have invested to improve rail systems to shift a portion of their distribution
network from road to the more environmentally friendly rail network. It’s clear that these firms see sustainability as an important issue in their profitability and future growth. While the companies mentioned above have begun to adopt sustainability as a core element of their businesses, there are several companies that have sustainability as a core constituent since their inception. Patagonia is a clothing company which puts the environment and sustainability above all else, whether it be through their ‘don’t buy this jacket’ campaign or use of 70% recycled materials across their range. Tesla have shifted their product focus to machines that build a future foundation for the firm, where the use of fossil fuels is eliminated through their groundbreaking technology.


None of Tesla’s vehicles have tailpipe emissions and the company have revolutionised how homes can be fueled through their intuitive solar roof technology. The potential for advancement through renewable energy and sustainability can be seen here, with the opportunity for solar energy to charge a customer’s car at home rather than having to stop at a petrol station. With every advancement in sustainable fields such as renewable energy for Tesla, even more innovation is demanded, and the likes of Tesla are delivering.


Another company taking an approach similar to Tesla’s, but within the fashion industry is the brand SAYE. SAYE is a start-up founded in Barcelona, which has incorporated sustainability across all its activities from the start. Their shoes are made from a host of ecological and recycled materials. The leather comes from European farms, which have been vetted as respecting environmental stewardship standards. The laces are produced from organic cotton, allowing them to easily integrate back into the cycles of the earth for future generations. The insoles are produced from PU foam, repurposed from the by-products of the European car industry. The company has also ensured all packaging is made entirely from recycled materials and promises to plant two trees for each pair of their shoes sold, with 90,000 trees planted to date. With their production facilities located in northern Portugal, the company guarantees fair wages and working hours, with worker friendly policies concerning overtime and conditions. With sustainability underpinning the ethos of the company, SAYE are in the best position to take advantage of the many opportunities and innovation stemming from this vital and growing sector.


The struggle between sustainability and profitability has long been a source of contention within business regarding its achievability. Too many companies have given lip service, but few up until now have made it a real purpose. Today’s world of Greta Thunberg and climate activism doesn’t see this issue as it once did and demands that real change be made. Patagonia, SAYE and Tesla have risen to the challenge. The idea of sustainability as business is clear from these companies making honest change, and the success of these businesses is reflective of that.

Striking the Balance: Will Hindsight Lead the Way?

By Sinéad Flynn

Overview

Innovation and technology are the most prominent buzz words for firms and corporations around the world. The next big idea, next invention, and next discovery are waiting to emerge. Society has evolved from the 1880s, where it was once thought by Commissioner of US Patent Office Charles Duell that “everything that can be invented has been invented” to new advances exploding at our fingertips without limits. FinTech has received a great deal of attention, and it’s only in its infant stages.  Marc Andressen notes that ‘internet companies might end up in 180 countries before they have 180 employees.’ Globalisation and technology have had a huge impact on markets, and the role of Fintech is just a new stimulation.

What is Fintech?

Fintech is a financial technology that aims to compete with traditional financial methods. Fintech can take the shape of crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, or blockchain, and notably is expanding into new markets rapidly. While online banking has been prevalent for years, fintech adds a new dimension to the payment’s services. Within seconds, users are sending and receiving money faster than ever before. Fintech has begun to dominate our everyday lives where it is commonly seen with those who use Apple Pay or Samsung Pay or those that have sent funds via GoFundMe. The limits to what may be considered Fintech can be unlimited, where most start-ups are embracing technology to create innovative products and services. FinTech is emerging throughout trading, insurance, and risk management as well, which has appeared quite disruptive to these industries that haven’t changed for quite some time.

Opportunity or Threat?

While business may be booming, and the financial crash seems to be forgotten, how does commercial law interact with this fast-paced business environment? It is argued that fintech firms receive a competitive advantage and create an attractive space for investors when they comply with regulations. Cryptocurrency companies and those that are an unregistered seller of securities have been hit hard in the US by the Security and Exchange Commission. These fines have diminished confidence in these certain start-ups and created financial loss through settlements and fines. There are concerns that fintech firms are utilising their institutions to harbour illegal assets utilised for criminal activity. While fintech firms have been embraced for their revolutionary growth and modern methods to business in this age of technology, it must be approached with caution due to poor ethical choices being made at times.

Striking the Balance

Countries such as Ireland that rely on a great deal of foreign direct investment must adequately strike the right balance between attracting new business, but also ensuring the system is not abused. Research shows that there is no specific legislation designed to regulate certain services that fall under this broad FinTech category, besides those concerning the Central Bank of Ireland and minimal EU Regulations. Ireland is a lucrative location for start-ups and businesses looking to set up a European hub, as they have more freedom to do so while then receiving this passport into the European market. Diversity in our financial markets reflects this growing desire to explore alternative mechanisms to enhance society. While research is ongoing for the limitations and effects FinTech firms bring to the table, these initiatives are looking primarily to law firms to structure and protect their interests.

A Closer Look

If one narrows the analysis of Fintech into electronic payment companies, the Payment Services Regulation 2018 will apply. This Regulation has effectively created a more level playing field for fintech start-ups to enter the market and develop their technology services further with an overall aim to increase competition for the benefit of consumers. At the moment, it is argued here that the EU is fully embracing these innovative and competitive practices. If one assumes that the market will regulate itself and that the legislature should be more laissez-faire, then more relaxed regulations should be welcomed. While this may be worrisome to those that appreciate the traditional style of banking and finance, this is ultimately a positive step, as time and time again, traditional banking models and financial institutions of the past have failed multiple sectors leading to dire losses.

Has the Balance Been Struck?

The right balance must be struck in order to protect investors, but also to facilitate this necessary development. The Central Bank of Ireland is conscious that there is a lack of legislation specific to Fintech entities, and that it has assumed the role as the main regulator where able. This leaves investors and innovators in a precarious spot. In one regard, there is little law guiding their activities, but in turn, this allows them to receive the freedom necessary to develop and surpass imaginable limits on their ventures. While the Payments Services Regulation may increase accountability and reporting, this may not be enough to accurately analyse how these institutions are operating.

What Next?

The embrace of the change in the financial markets may be a positive step, and a mechanism that may prevent future economic crashes and downturns as new perspectives and ways of managing the financial sector are introduced. Consumers must be wary for that this partially unregulated ecosystem may produce detrimental effects that hindsight may prove useful.

Demi’s Basic Business Questions: What is Commercial Awareness?

This week instead of looking to myself for the answer to your questions, I looked to you for the answer to the meaning of Commercial Awareness. Commercial awareness is a phrase I’ve been seeing lately all over commercial law applications and all over financial and professional services sectors too. My idea of commercial awareness has always been wishy-washy and recently I’ve wanted to gain a more succinct definition.

To achieve my objective, I asked a few students from Trinity and UCD how they would define commercial awareness. 

I spoke to students from business backgrounds who gave exhaustive responses:

 “Being cognisant of the way businesses operate and affect our lives and how we affect businesses” (1st Year BESS), 

“..being able to tack together different current affair stories and making real sense of them for your industry,” (2nd Year Law and Business)

“..understanding the external environment that impacts the specific industry, i.e the Political. Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors (PESTLE)..” (1st Year Global Business)

I also spoke to law students like myself, who kept things short and simple:

“..an understanding of how businesses work”

“Knowledge of a business or company, which is important if you want to get recruited by that company!”

I spoke to older students whose responses were.. interesting, to say the least:

“It means being aware, commercially of course.” (3rd Year Biomedical Sciences)

“Being able to tell the difference between all the ads or commercials on TV” (3rd Year Children’s and General Nursing)

Not only was I able to get student insight, I was able to get some industry perspective on commercial awareness too. My application for Legal Cheek’s Commercial Awareness Question Time with Matheson, Barbri, Pinsent Masons and Arthur Cox was successful so I was invited to attend the event at the Law Society.

The Commercial Awareness Question Time taught me the wide range of issues that commercial awareness encompasses. It ranges from having an in-depth knowledge of what the implications of Brexit are on the legal sector to knowing that a company is a brand that has to sell and distinguish itself from competitors. 

Nearing the end of my search for “commercial awareness”, I’ve come to the realization that commercial awareness is as broad or as succinct a definition as we want it to be. It really is as simple as taking a little time out of your week to become “..aware, commercially of course” by following some financial institutions, newspapers or even keeping up with my Basic Business Questions.

If you have any more Basic Business Questions you are interested in me tackling, please do not hesitate to email me at dadenira@tcd.ie

Yours in Learning,

Demilade

A Long Road Ahead? Here’s what happened when the 33rd Dáil Convened Today

  • This afternoon the 33rd Dáil convened for the first time, with 48 newly elected and 112 returning TDs.
  • No leader secured the required number of votes to become Taoiseach today, and there are differing arguments as to how long talks on the formation of a new government will last.
  • Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl beat independent Denis Naughten and was re-elected as Ceann Comhairle, meaning Fianna Fáil’s seats are now on a level with those of Sinn Féin at 37.

Today the 33rd Dáil convened with the agenda of electing the Ceann Comhairle and seeing through the Taoiseach nomination process, which entails a vote among all TDs on candidates put forward for Taoiseach.

None of the four leaders that were nominated to become Taoiseach – Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin, Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil, Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael or Eamon Ryan of the Green Party – conjured up the 80 votes required to win. This is due to the lack of success thus far in inter-party discussions to form a coalition or come to any sort of agreement on how the next government should look following the general election on February 8th, which returned no clear majority. The results of the nomination process instead simply give an indication of the level of support for the main parties’ respective candidates among TDs.

Leo Varadkar received 36 votes in favour of his becoming Taoiseach, Micheál Martin received 41 votes, Mary Lou McDonald received 45 votes and Eamon Ryan received 12 votes. With none hitting the 80 vote threshold, the Dáil will now be suspended and Leo Varadkar will remain as a caretaker Taoiseach.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald benefitted from the support of 5 Solidarity People Before Profit TDs and a handful of left-leaning independents. The Social Democrats chose to abstain from voting for any candidate for Taoiseach, criticizing the process as a “popularity contest”, which is a dent to Mary Lou McDonald’s numbers as she would have been hoping to secure the support of all smaller left-leaning parties. However her party will surely be buoyed by today’s result as they enter into the coming negotiations, however long they may last.

In the election for Ceann Comhairle, Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl beat independent Denis Naughten and was re-elected, meaning Fianna Fáil’s seats are on a level with those of Sinn Féin at 37. Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath stated that he believes the loss of the seat will have little impact on their ability to play a key role in the formation of a government.

Fine Gael, with their 35 seats, appear intent on leading the opposition in the next government, with TD Richard Bruton suggesting that such an outcome would present an opportunity for the party to reflect on their weaknesses. TD Simon Harris reiterated his party’s position of ruling out any potential coalition with Sinn Féin, and stated that the impetus to form a government was on “the party that has won the most votes – Sinn Féin – and the party that won the most seats – Fianna Fáil.” Leo Varadkar, however, has not ruled out the prospect of his party forming an alliance with Fianna Fáil.

Micheál Martin believes that talks in relation to the formation of a new government could last up to two months, which has recent precedent given the 70 day wait for the formation of a new government in 2016. Fellow Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath is more optimistic and suggests it is more a matter of weeks. Fianna Fáil maintain that they have ruled out a coalition government with Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin, however, suggest they are open to negotiating with all parties.

Meetings between party leaders will intensify in the coming days as the Dáil is suspended and discussions on how to form a government begin in earnest. There remain numerous possibilities on the outcome of such talks. There may be a minority government made up of left-leaning parties led by Sinn Féin, a minority Fianna Fáil and Green Party coalition bolstered by a confidence-and-supply agreement with Fine Gael, or perhaps a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael alliance. It’ll be a long road of debate and compromise and intra-party bickering. And if discussions end up fruitless, we may be headed for another general election.

What Is the Circular Economy and Why Should We Care?

The world’s population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion in 2050, according to the United Nations. Yet, the earth’s resources are not limitless. Basic economic principles tell us that more demand, without a simultaneous increase in supply, results in higher prices. While this economic model of price determination is pretty straightforward, it highlights a pressing problem that humanity faces: the scarcity of resources. Our current economy is largely linear – we collect raw materials (take), turn those materials into products (make), use the products (consume), and discard them as waste when we do not need them anymore (dispose). This take-make-consume-dispose approach however is not sustainable.

The Solution

The circular economy is a systemic approach with the aim to eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems, according to the Ellen McArthur Foundation. There are several components to a circular economy that make our economic system more sustainable:

  • Maintain, prolong and share: By making products more durable though design, maintenance and repair, and by making products accessible to other users, the need for creating entirely new products that require resource input can be removed.
  • Reuse and redistribute: Certain materials and products, especially technical ones, can be reused multiple times or redistributed to new users. Sometimes, there may be a need to slightly change or enhance a product or material, but online marketplaces like eBay showcase that this is viable and already being done.
  • Remanufacture and refurbish: Both approaches refer to the restoration of the value of products. When a product is remanufactured, it is dissembled and rebuilt, with certain components being replaced when necessary. This results in an as-new condition of the product with the same warranty as an entirely new product. Refurbishment on the other hand refers to a cosmetic process where a product is repaired as much as possible but usually without dissembling it or replacing components.
  • Recycle: Recycling is an already well-known process where a product is reduced to its basic material level that can be used to manufacture new products. However, recycling is a lower-value process compared to the previously mentioned processes. This is because recycling results in a loss of embedded labour and energy, the costs of remaking products entirely are higher, and recycling inevitably results in material losses.
  • Cascades: The Ellen McArthur Foundation describes the cascades process as “[…] putting used materials and components into different uses and extracting, over time, stored energy and material order”. This is done until the material is ultimately returned to the natural environment as nutrients. An example of this, according to the foundation, is a pair of cotton jeans that first is turned into furniture stuffing, then into insulation material, and ultimately returned to the soil as nutrients after being anaerobically digested.

The circular economy promises many benefits for the environment and the whole economy. For example, increasing revenue from circular activities and more productive utilisation of resources may result in overall economic growth. There is also the possibility of job creation across industrial sectors and SMEs, and through increased innovation and entrepreneurship. The environment may benefit from lower carbon dioxide emissions, a reduction of primary material consumption, higher land productivity and enhanced soil health due to more nutritious fertilisers from natural sources rather than chemical ones.

Also, businesses and individuals can benefit from the circular economy. By lowering the cost of remanufacturing and introducing new revenue streams, companies can increase their profits. Also, by using more recycled inputs, a company can reduce the risk of volatile raw material prices. Moreover, the circular economy demands new business services, such as supply chain logistics to support the reintroduction of end-to-end products into the system, and new sales platforms to facilitate longer product use or higher product utilisation.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation even suggests that a circular economy could result in a €3000 increased disposable income per EU household by 2030. Also, a circular economy could result in products that are better tailored to customer needs, resulting in more choice and higher perceived quality. Moreover, longer-lasting products would increase the convenience for customers since hassles with repairs and returns could be avoided. By introducing a circular economy in the food value chain, healthcare costs could be lowered that are related to pesticide use. Additionally, lower air pollution, lower water contamination, lower antimicrobial resistance and lower foodborne diseases, achieved by a circular economy in the food sector, could save up to 290,000 lives by 2050 that would otherwise be lost due to outdoor air pollution.

The Future

Currently, only 9% of the world economy is circular, according to the Circularity Gap Report 2019. However, the scarcity of resources makes a transition towards a circular economy all the more pressing, especially with a growing global population and other related issues like climate change. Major global brands (e.g. BlackRock, Google, 3M, Heineken, IKEA, McDonald’s, Apple and Microsoft), universities (e.g. UCL, Arizona State University and TU Delft), cities (e.g. Brussels, Milano and Toronto) and governmental bodies (e.g. the Danish Business Authority, the Scottish Government and the Republic of Slovenia) have already opted to learn, share knowledge and put ideas with regards to the Circular Economy into practice by joining the CE100 Network. The circular economy creates exciting opportunities for companies, organisations, the public sector and entrepreneurs alike, and it is likely that we will see a variety of innovative circular economy initiatives on both local and global scale in the not-so-distant future.

Demi’s Basic Business Questions: What is Corporation Tax?

We often see headlines about Ireland’s low corporation tax – some are critical, others ecstatic about it. A pretty common question people have is what exactly is corporation tax, and how does the tax big corporations like Google and Facebook pay affect someone like me, the average college student. The aim of the following article is to give a bite-sized introduction to corporation tax and give some guidance on whether it is to be loved or hated.

Firstly, a definition. Corporation tax is the tax companies pay in countries they are resident in on the profit they earn from their business. In Ireland, the tax is at 12.5%, significantly lower than other countries. The average corporation tax rate in Europe is 25.3%, for example. 

Similarly to when we looked at why it is not feasible to print more money in order to combat financial crises, we are brought back to one of the fundamentals of economics – the law of demand. Generally, when something costs more money, less people want it. When something costs less, more people want it. Pretty reasonable, right?

The law of demand can easily be applied to our low corporation tax scenario. If it costs less money to make profits in Ireland (due to the low corporation tax), more corporations will want to set up here. It is argued that this is a positive phenomenon as it leads to Ireland becoming an international hub for multinational companies. Where there are increased companies, there are increased jobs. This reduces the number of skilled young people, university graduates etc. emigrating in search of work. Increased employment boosts the Irish economy and is often something to smile about. 

However, on the other side of the coin, those who are against our competitively low corporation tax level make strong arguments. They point to the profits that corporations such as Twitter and Facebook make and suggest better use for those profits, such as contributing to social welfare schemes. It is also argued that we are putting ourselves at an advantage at the expense of fellow European countries. The discrepancy between corporation tax rates is so high that it is a significant challenge for them to compete. This can be seen as unethical. 

There are numerous points to be made on either side of the debate but it is up to you decide where your opinions lie. 

If you have any more Basic Business Questions you are interested in me tackling, please do not hesitate to email me at dadenira@tcd.ie

Yours in Learning,

Demilade

Meat Substitutes Are on the Rise, but What Does This Mean for the Meat Market?

Every day, more and more people are abandoning meat as part of their diet in favour of plant-based meat substitutes. The movement towards meat substitutes has been spearheaded to the mainstream by Millennials and Generation Zers as a statement against animal cruelty, an acknowledgement of newfound evidence linking meat products to certain cancers, and the harmful impact the production of meat (particularly beef) has on the environment. While the movement grows in popularity by the day, the business world carefully observes how the meat market is projected to develop.

Markets and Markets projects the meat substitutes market to grow from US$4.6 billion in 2018 to $6.4 billion by 2023. With billions of potential revenue still up in the air for the next few years, companies are flocking to fill in the gap in the meat substitutes market.

Startups specialising in the production of plant-based substitutes have seized the market opportunity presented to them. Beyond Meat, a publicly-traded meat substitute producer based in the United States, currently has a market capitalisation of over US$6 billion. The company became one of the most successful companies that went public in 2019. Although its valuation has decreased since a massive peak in the summer, Beyond Meat is poised to be a leader in the growing market. Its success demonstrates the massive potential in the meat substitutes market.

After Beyond Meat’s prosperous year, other producers of meat substitutes have been under pressure to separate themselves from the pack in the meat substitutes market. Impossible Foods is a popular producer of meat substitutes that is not (yet) public. One of their notable moves was their partnership with Burger King, who rolled out the Impossible Whopper near the end of 2019. Considering how well-marketed the Impossible Whopper was leading up to its release, the massive success of Beyond Meat since its initial public offering (IPO) may have compelled Impossible Foods to make a move that would increase their own publicity.

However, it is not just newcomers who are seizing opportunity in the market for meat substitutes. Massive meat producers have begun to produce their own plant-based meat substitutes. Such a strategy is a recognition that plant-based substitutes are no longer a niche component of the meat market. If the world’s established meat producers want to continue their dominance in the market, creating plant-based substitutes appears to be a must.

As the market for meat substitutes grows, the competition between startups and established companies will generally lead to one side triumphing over the other. In an age where globalisation is more of the standard than the exception, the large meat companies are advantaged by having the means to creating a globalised network for producing and distributing their products. However, public perception heavily favours the startups over the established companies. The growing awareness around the treatment of animals by meat companies has accelerated the growth of the plant-based diet movement. Ethically conscious consumers will resist buying plant-based products from the very companies that compelled them to abandon their meat-eating ways in the first place. Also, unlike the large meat companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are dedicated to sustainability and have embraced environmentalism as a core value. While the startups have broadcasted a clear mission as a part of their penetration into the market for meat substitutes, the large meat companies are simply reacting to demand without any substantive value at the core of their change in strategy. As the value-oriented Millennial and Generation Z consumers incorporate a larger and larger portion of the global consumer base, the dedicated actions of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods should prove to outlast the reactionary actions of the large meat companies.

Considering that the plant-based startups seem poised for massive growth, the plant-based movement is officially here to stay. The value-driven approach of the startups will propel them into dominance of the meat substitutes market. Rumours of Impossible Foods going public after the success of Beyond Meat shows that investors are willing to engage in the meat substitutes market and also trust the startups to dominate the market in the future over the established meat producers. The sudden growth of both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods also indicates just how much social movements can dictate the actions of businesses. Both companies’ focus on the environmental benefits of eating plant-based has resonated with younger consumers and has developed an appreciation of both companies’ efforts. By the day, consumers care more and more about what a company stands for rather than just what it sells, and the rise of plant-based producers and their disruption of the meat market is a practical example of just that.

The Globalisation of Sports Competitions

What is globalisation?

To begin, what exactly is globalisation? It is a commonly used term but it is worth noting that it also delves into other disciplines, not just business. When asked, different individuals give equally different interpretations of their definitions. Taking it from the business point of view, we can consider it to be the concept of treating the world as a single, integrated marketplace. However, if we asked an economist, they could say globalisation is more or less an expansion of global trade. In contrast, a sociologist might interpret globalisation as the sociocultural changes which stem from the international migration of both people and information. A political scientist could potentially define globalisation as the integration of laws which govern the interaction of states and global institutions. Given these differences in the definition of globalisation across different disciplines, understanding if sports have become truly globalised is not an easy task. 

Background

Without a doubt, international sports competitions have a long history. The first international sports match was a cricket match between the U.S.A. and Canada in 1844. The first international sports competition was the first modern Summer Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. However, its origins date back to Ancient Greece. The ancient Olympics do not count as international though because only men from Ancient Greek city-states and kingdoms were allowed to compete. It is worth noting that many early examples of international sports competitions took place in generally wealthier European or American countries and cities. Keeping the Summer Olympic Games example, it can also be observed that the subsequent seven editions took place in other European cities with the exception of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics in the U.S.A.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in hosting rights to international sporting events. This can be observed through the 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2018 Winter Olympic Games and 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

All of these events had one thing in common – they were the first of their kind to be hosted in their respective countries and/or continents. The 2010 FIFA World Cup was the first to take place in the African continent. That summer, South Africa hosted 32 international teams and their fans. Last year, Japan became the first Asian country to host a Rugby Union World Cup. They hosted 20 international teams and their supporters over the September-November period. PyeongChang also became the first South Korean city to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2018. Hence, we can clearly see the more recent globalised trend in the hosting rights of large sports competitions.

Advantages

Naturally, we expect a diversification in host nations to possess a myriad of benefits, and they do, of course. Usually, these large-scale sports competitions take place in equally large cities. Hosting such a popular event and experiencing a large influx of foreign tourists can have a significantly positive impact on the host nation’s economy. During their stay, visitors pay to be spectators at the event but also stay in local accommodation and cover their necessary daily expenses. A Deloitte report estimates that Rugby World Cup visitors alone can directly contribute between £200-810m GBP into the host nation’s economy. Large companies, especially in the hospitality industry, certainly benefit but local, small and family-run businesses also benefit from such a large inflow of tourists. 

FIFA reports that during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, 3.4 million foreign tourists visited all eleven host cities. That is a remarkably large number, without counting the number of tourists that went to less than the eleven Russian host cities and the 3.4 million Russian fans who travelled to all eleven host cities as well. Another benefit would also be the increased cultural awareness and cohesion that is fostered at these types of events as locals get to meet other foreign visitors and vice versa. In this aspect, sport really does become more globalised both in a sociological aspect but also commercially as event tickets are sold to people from all over the world. Taking the example of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, SportsPro reported that the final between England and South Africa saw a record attendance of 70,103. Official ticket prices sold for maximum 100,000 Japanese Yen which is roughly $900 USD, without counting resold tickets. Two Category A tickets even sold for an estimated $31,700 USD on a ticket reselling website.

Host nations can also potentially exploit a boost in their international rankings, if they defy expectations and perform above what was expected of them. Japan, as host nation of last year’s Rugby World Cup is a great example of this. Japan has qualified for every edition of the tournament since 1987 but did not experience great success. In all of the editions before 2019, they were always knocked out of the competition at the pool stage. Japan’s ranking in rugby union increased slightly after the competition. They went from ninth to eighth best in the world. A relatively successful host nation who surprises their fellow competitors can inspire other countries as well. Why? Seeing another country with little experience in both hosting large sports events and competing at the highest level in the chosen sport could potentially encourage another country with a similar background to want to host the next edition. An unexpected but successful host nation could lead to a large surge in popularity in the particular sport, as seen by the large surge in Japanese rugby fans after seeing their country’s success. 

Disadvantages

However, there are downsides to allowing countries with little hosting experience to organise a huge, international sports competition. Such large sports competitions are often surrounded by equally large scandals or money mismanagement accusations. Brazil, hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, were surrounded by scandals regarding the two competitions. The Brazilian government was lambasted by both national and international media for abandoning the infrastructure they built exclusively for both events. Last year, Business Insider remarked that Brazil spent $3 billion USD in building new stadiums for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. One particular stadium, the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, cost the Brazilian government between $220-300 million USD, as well as the lives of three workers who died during construction. This stadium now sits on an abandoned and derelict site. In 2017, Business Insider again reported that the Olympic Village apartments built for the 2016 Rio Olympics (and worth $700 million USD) were abandoned. They were meant to be turned into luxury condos and sold after the Olympics but only 7% were actually sold. This of course, further infuriated locals. 

The next edition of the FIFA World Cup is due to take place in Qatar in 2022 although that has already been met with fierce criticism of the alleged human rights violations of migrant workers working on Qatari stadiums. Amnesty International estimates that there are 1.7 million migrant workers in Qatar. They are allegedly paid less than what the recruitment agency in their native countries promised them and have had their passports confiscated so they cannot go back to their respective countries. These examples reflect a failure in achieving globalisation from the political science perspective as regulations in these countries are not as fiercely imposed such as the ones in Europe for example. Experienced European host nations are usually not met with such large scandals as they have a more accomplished background in organising such large-scale competitions. 

To conclude, these statements raise the question of whether inexperienced countries should be trusted with such a large responsibility or not. The attempt to globalise sport by reaching other audiences is predominantly welcomed worldwide but certain failures in previous competitions undermine the potential success of the concept of globalised sport. Can inexperienced countries provide the necessary infrastructure such as enough public transport routes and accommodation to withstand the very large volumes of incoming spectators? For the most part, this is usually achieved but unethical abandonment of this infrastructure once the competition is over is unfortunately often a recurring event. These are complex questions which have led to numerous debates on the matter and varying opinions which are of course, a product of personal interpretation. However, one thing is certain, the increase in the diversification of hosting rights of international sports competitions has undoubtedly started. The real question is whether it will continue or not.

“The Power of Diversity”: 3 Takeaways from the SMF’s Leadership Perspective Series

Last night was the concluding conference of this years Leadership Perspective Series, organised by Trinity’s own Student Managed Fund, the first of its kind in Europe. The speakers invited to this conference were, for a lack of a different expression, very diverse. Declan Curry, a Northern Irish journalist, moderated the discussion between panelists Heather Melville (Director and Head of Client Experience for PwC UK), Brian O’Sullivan (CEO of Fulfil Nutrition), Cecil Martin (Sky Sports Broadcaster, Motivational Speaker and Former NFL Fullback) and Amanda Pullinger (CEO of 100 Women in Finance). Between the many questions asked by audience members and the former NFL player Cecil Martin asking everyone to stand up and stretch, the conference was an incredibly insightful experience into how leaders look at diversity and how they have been affected by it.

1. Diversity of Thought

This was probably the most talked about topic of the night. Each speaker offered a unique perspective into what they believed was the most vital type of diversity: thought. Overall, the panelists agreed that diversity of thought implies the breaking of the fundamental barrier of following the easiest path and rejecting challenges to one’s own ideas. O’Sullivan mentioned that at the start of his time with Fulfil Nutrition, he noticed the company had, unlike industry giants with very rigid structures, a culture that incentivised openness to learning and challenging ideas, which in turn led to the creation of an extremely diverse team. Cecil Martin also added to this in that his recommendation was to ‘strengthen as many “muscles” as you can’, in the sense that one should be involved in as many things outside their own skillset as possible. In other words, in order to grow as a leader within business, one needs to grow in other areas which will then feed unique ideas into an organisation. Pullinger approached this idea by accepting that as leaders, business people need to acknowledge the fact they don’t know everything, and that for a team to be successful, being diverse in terms of age, gender and specially ethnicity is essential, as research has already shown.

2. The Power of Visibility

During the discussion, it was stressed how important it is to have role models, who give visibility to minorities across a range of senior positions. Melville mentioned how not being able to see people like yourself in these positions makes it almost impossible to see yourself up there, and that the path you would need to take is practically invisible. Organisations should be, in theory, fishing in diverse talent pools for new positions but directorial boards of most large corporations still tell a story of inequality that is becoming less and less antiquated as new generations enter the workforce demanding diversity as a basic pillar of organisational culture. Pullinger’s 100 Women in Finance launched an initiative to put some of the world’s very few fund managers, who make up for an alarmingly small proportion of total fund managers across the world (around 7% and numbers haven’t changed much for 30 years), in the frontline of the media, in their website and even supporting a handful of these fund managers to pitch at American news channels. Pullinger said that the results were clear from the get-go: the women brought diversity to these panels on television, and with that came new ideas and discussions. Being exposed to the general public allows these women to become role-models, and inspire a younger generation of soon-to-be female leaders.

3. Authenticity

Another recurring theme throughout the night was authenticity. The panelists agreed that believing in oneself and being confident in the skills one acquired during college and with extracurricular activities are what can set apart a successful candidate when it comes to job hunting. The best talent comes in the form of diverse candidates that have been able to gather skills in a wide range of specialties, which makes them able to reach a level of problem solving that will be hard to replace with AI. Furthermore, Melville commented that knowing one’s self-worth is extremely important as you rise through the ranks of the organisation. It’s important to be grateful , she says, but it’s even more important to know that you’ve worked hard and that you deserve to be where you are and that it was your skills and competence that are leading you through the corporate ladder. This becomes especially relevant when the discussion turns to diversity policies and quotas that may not necessarily pick candidates based on their skills, but rather as a tool for image improvement.

Finally, it appears that organisations have realised that diversity is something that has to be rooted in their cultures for them to remain relevant for the generations to come, which will continue to demand more diversity at the bottom as well as at the highest ranks. Without this diversity, any company will face the risk of becoming obsolete and inefficient when compared to those who have truly embraced it. These will be the companies that will head into the future with an enormous advantage, as their leaders finally begin to realise the power of diversity.

Use criticism to develop yourself!

By Neha Verma

At some point in life, we all face criticism personally or professionally. Criticism doesn’t come easy and at times it is difficult to acknowledge the same. We often get bogged down by the criticism so much that we ignore what we can actually learn from it. So instead of retaliating or being defensive; pause for a while think critically and then respond – though easy said than done.

I am amongst those who would become extremely uncomfortable when criticized. My initial reactions were driven emotionally. I would carry the distress caused by criticism throughout the day and affect my work. Over the time, I realized that we don’t have control over others; how they judge and form an opinion about us, but we can definitely learn to respond in a better way and display our maturity.

If you are going through difficult time combating criticism, I have listed a few suggestions to face criticism bravely:

  • Criticism opens a whole new perspective which you might not have thought of. Life is a process of continuous learning and we learn best from our flaws.
  • When you accept criticism, you show humility towards the fact that you are ready to acknowledge your own weaknesses.
  • Criticism helps enhance your emotional quotient. You learn to listen.
  • Criticism makes you strong; you will learn to tackle difficult situations and people.
  • Criticism enhances your problem-solving skill and makes you a rational thinker.
  • Learn to let go unconstructive criticism, do not dwell on it for a long time and create a stressful environment for yourself.

We are often scared of being judged and are obsessed with the thought of what other people think of us. Most of the time, we receive unsolicited criticism/feedback and we tend to misinterpret the intention behind it. Criticism challenges our disposition and to maintain a calm demeanor becomes relatively difficult. But, remember you are being critiqued because you created something. So, next time when you are criticized, remember you and your work are being noticed. Don’t let opinion of others stop you from doing what you believe in.

Billionaire is ‘Going Purpose’ by Donating $3 Billion Company to the Earth

5 years after claiming that ‘We’re in business to save our home planet’, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has followed through on his promise by donating his company to the earth. Chouinard founded Patagonia in 1973, and his values have always been central to the company. The company also donates 1% of its profits to charity each year and promotes an environmentally friendly business model, even going so far as to encourage customers not to buy Patagonia clothing new and instead reuse old ones.

In his open letter to stakeholders, it was clear that in selling the company Chouinard wanted to ensure both the financial success of the company and the charitable success of his donations. According to Chouinard, ‘there were no great options available to us, so we created our own.’

Chouinard decided to sell his businesses to two different entities. The first entity, the Patagonia Purpose Trust, received all off the voting stock which is equivalent to 2% of the company. The Chouinard family received nothing from this sale and paid $17.5 million in taxes.

However, by doing this Chouinard believes he and his family can ‘maintain our values’. The Patagonia Purpose Trust’s board will include the Chouinard family as well as directors equally committed to the success of the company and the planet.

As well as this, 100% of the non-voting shares will go to the Hold Fast Collective. These shares are equivalent to 98% of the company and will receive 100% of the profit. The Hold Fast Collective is a non-profit organization that advocates for clause and political candidates that fight for the environment. Patagonia expects to generate $100 million in profit to help the Hold Fast Collective.

Chouinard closed his statement with a message of hope: ‘Despite its immensity, Earths resources are not infinite, and it is clear we’ve exceeded its limits. But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.’ Chouinard has set an example for all companies and governments, and one can only hope that his example is followed in time.

The Future of Digital Assets in the EU 

Many people have long seen the market for digital assets as the Wild West of investing, filled with lucrative volatility and a significant risk of fraud. However, the European Commission’s Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) is a regulatory framework that seeks to change this. MiCA is due to come into effect in 2024 with the dual objectives of harmonisation of existing EU regulations and the protection of investors.

One of the key impacts of this new framework will be to broaden the scope of existing regulation to include additional Virtual asset service providers (VASPs). Owing to the market’s rapid development, many service providers are unregulated, putting investors at risk of exploitation. Crypto-asset service providers (CASPs) is a term that exists in many other jurisdictions and has now been adopted by MiCA’s drafters to replace the Financial Action Task Force’s well-known definition for VASPs. The CASP definition is very similar to the original definition however it is much broader in scope so as to provide for as many crypto-related entities as possible. The most important thing to understand is that all VASPs will be considered CASPs but not all CASPs will be VASPs as they will fall outside the previous, narrower definition.

VASP definition:

  1. Exchange between virtual assets and fiat currencies;
  2. Exchange between one or more forms of virtual assets;
  3. Transfer of virtual assets;
  4. Safekeeping and/or administration of virtual assets or instruments enabling control over virtual assets; and
  5. Participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer and/or sale of a virtual asset.

CASP definition: 

  1. The custody and administration of crypto-assets on behalf of third parties; 
  2. The operation of a trading platform for crypto-assets; 
  3. The exchange of crypto-assets for fiat currency that is legal tender; 
  4. The exchange of crypto-assets for other crypto-assets; 
  5. The execution of orders for crypto-assets on behalf of third parties; 
  6. Placing of crypto-assets; 
  7. The reception and transmission of orders for crypto-assets on behalf of third parties;
  8. Providing advice on crypto-assets;

MiCA will also regulate the digital assets which currently fall outside the scope of EU and Member State regulations, such as e-money tokens, asset-referenced tokens and utility tokens. Surprisingly, MiCA does not address non-fungible tokens (NFTs), although the European Commission has indicated that it will address them in the future.

When MiCA comes into effect it will be applicable across the EU, without requiring Member States to introduce implementation laws. This uniform approach will bring about greater clarity and certainty for CASPs who are currently faced with differing domestic regulations across Member States. For example, MiCA will streamline the licensing process for crypto-asset issuers and make it valid across all Member States. 

Notwithstanding the greater ease of doing business, the regime itself will impose stricter obligations on CASPs so as to protect investors from market abuse and ensure transparency. These obligations relate to the authorisation of issuers and the marketing of crypto-assets themselves, as well as the requirement to publish reports and whitepapers. However, issuers that operate on a smaller scale will be exempt, such as those that deal with less than 120 investors per Member State. 

While some CASPs may be sceptical of MiCA’s impact on their business models, the Commission anticipates that the increased protection will attract investors. For example, CASPs involved in the custody of digital assets (custodians) will be required to store their customers’ assets separately to their own data, using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). This will ensure the assets are more secure in the event of a malware attack. Furthermore, these custodians will also be liable for losses that result from hacking or break down in technology. These requirements will undoubtedly increase consumer confidence and thus stimulate investment. 

Finally, it is interesting to note that because the safeguards relate to EU consumers, these changes will also apply to any firms outside the EU who wish to do business in the EU. Therefore, MiCA will have far-reaching implications for both CASPs and investors in the digital assets market not just in the EU but around the world. As Dublin is one of the world’s investment fund and asset management hubs it will be interesting to see what opportunities and challenges arise as a result of MiCA.

Big Four: Potential Audit and Advisory Split 

The Big Four accounting firm EY are only one step away from restructuring the firm. Their audit and advisory services would be separated as a result of the restructure. All that remains is for the 13,000 EY partners throughout the world to vote in favour of or against the split. It would be the biggest change in the accounting industry in decades

First of all, in case you’re unfamiliar, the Big Four accounting firms are PWC, KPMG, EY, and Deloitte. They are the top accounting firms worldwide, providing tax, consulting and auditing services in over 150 countries. In 2021, they earned a combined worldwide revenue of $167.2 billion. 

EY managers have finally accepted a plan to split their audit and advising businesses after months of discussion about a split in the audit and advisory services. The plan would potentially see the audit division retaining the EY name and the advisory division becoming its own company with a new name. However, it will not be as easy as it may sound. The distribution of the tax division, which is essential to both the audit and consultancy services, is one of the key concerns of the split.

So why are they splitting? The primary goal of the division is to prevent conflicts of interest from limiting the growth of the audit and advisory divisions. This stems from when one division is not allowed to work with the clients of the other division. The split would open up many more potential clients to the new advisory company and would help the advisory sector’s expansion.

A statement released by EY on the 8th of September states: 

“EY leaders have reached the decision to move forward with partner votes to separate into two distinct, multidisciplinary organizations. We expect this phase to continue through the end of the year, with voting expected to begin on a country-by-country basis in late 2022 and conclude in early 2023.”

Budget 2023: An Overview

The Budget 2023 is one of the most significant budgets in years. The significant tax surplus received
by the exchequer this year is being used to ease the cost of living crisis for those who need it most.

Welfare

Weekly Social Welfare payments will increase by €12 for all recipients, as well as
those with a State pension. There has also been an increase in the number of Lump Sum
payments, such as double child benefit being handed out in November as well as an increase
in Christmas payments for those on the Disability allowance and Living Alone allowance.

Tax

The government has increased the level for paying 40% income tax from €36,800 to
€40,000. This move will help middle income earners take home more money, to alleviate
some of the cost of living pressures. The second USC bracket (2%) has also been increased
from €21,295 to €22,920.

Energy

In a direct response to the energy crisis, the government has committed to giving
out €600 in electricity credits during the winter months. The first instalment will be handed out
before Christmas, with the other two coming in the New Year.

Housing

The government is set to introduce a tax credit worth €500 for renters; as rents
have continued to rise significantly in the country. They have also introduced a Vacant Home
Tax, to be placed on residential property that is occupied for less than 30 days in a 12
month period. This policy will hopefully encourage more efficient land use.

Education

College fees will be cut by €1000 in a once-off reduction to help alleviate
inflationary pressures, as well as the SUSI grant being increased by 10-14% in September
2023.

Health

Free contraception will be available for all women between the ages of 16-30.

End of an Era: The ECB Waves Goodbye to Negative Interest Rates

In July of this year, the European Central Bank (ECB) ended its historic eight-year policy of negative interest rates. Motivated by the European debt crisis, the ECB slashed interest rates below zero in an effort to push banks to lend more and boost economic growth in June 2014. An unorthodox approach to monetary policy—the announcement made headlines for its experimental attempt to prop up a eurozone economy that was showing strong signs of deflation.

What do negative interest rates mean?

One of the primary responsibilities of central banks is to make it more or less attractive for households and businesses to save or borrow. They achieve this through the use of monetary policy tools such as interest rates. The implementation of negative interest rates by the ECB appeared to be a rewriting of the conventions of economics at the time of its introduction. Banks have traditionally operated in such a way that savers earn interest on deposits and borrowers pay interest on loans. Interest rates of below zero flip this concept on its head, with lenders paying to hold their money on deposit in the bank while borrowers are paid to take on loans.

Sub-zero: A failed experiment?

As the era of the negative interest rates experiment has now drawn to a close in the eurozone, the results of the policy have been mixed with slow growth. The ECB has estimated that extra bank lending increased by an average of 0.7 per cent and that the policy created an extra 0.4 to 0.5 percentage points of economic growth. But the policy was not entirely well received by member states. Critics of the policy felt that it created asset bubbles and encouraged cash hoarding. Other opponents felt it unfairly hurt the yield on European pension savings. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) is now the only remaining central bank adopting negative rates. Despite pressure to protect the strength of the Yen, the BoJ continues to stick to dovish monetary policy as underlying demand remains weak and inflation remains low at 3 per cent.

Inflation running rampant

The decision by monetary policymakers to increase interest rates has come amidst a rapid surge in eurozone inflation. Record high price levels have induced ECB president, Christine Lagarde, to make a U-turn on the policy of negative interest rates, with the ECB raising rates for the first time in 11 years last July.

Up until then, the ECB was charging banks minus 0.5 per cent on surplus deposits before moving the key rate to zero. Rates were hiked further in September by a record margin of 75 basis points on the back of inflation of 9.1 per cent in August. The ECB is expected to continue to increase rates in the coming months to bring inflation back down towards the bank’s target of 2 per cent. Philip Lane, the ECB’s Chief Economist, has signalled that planned future increases will likely come in smaller increments.

Europe’s 25-year inflation high is largely driven by soaring energy prices, which are rising at an annual rate of 38.3 per cent, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Around the world, monetary policymakers are turning to hawkish rate hikes to wrest control of surging prices. US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell lifted interest rates by a third consecutive three-quarter basis point yesterday with further tightening planned. The Fed forecasts the benchmark rate to rise to 4.4 per cent by the end of the year.

When it comes to interest rate hikes, monetary policymakers have to tread carefully. A fine balancing act is required as aggressive efforts to curb spending may run the risk of triggering a large and deep recession.

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