ChainSafe Announces Acquisition of Node Factory

Blockchain

Toronto-based blockchain R&D firm ChainSafe announces the acquisition of Croatian blockchain partner Node Factory.

ChainSafe is a leading blockchain development and engineering solutions firm encompassing top engineering talent from around the world. The company is architecting official client implementations on Ethereum 2.0 (“Lodestar“), Polkadot (“Gossamer“), Filecoin (“Forest”), a Rust implementation of the Mina Protocol, and many more. ChainSafe rounds out their deep Web 3.0 portfolio with undertakings into product development via their privacy-first file storage solution ChainSafe Files, the ChainSafe Gaming SDK, as well as their flagship product ChainBridge. Today, they announce the acquisition of fellow blockchain development firm Node Factory.

“We could not be more excited to have Node Factory join the ChainSafe family. They have been integral partners in helping us build Lodestar for more than a year. Their work is always of the highest, most reliable quality, and above the code sits an even friendlier team. Adding their roster of talented developers into the ChainSafe mix gives us more depth and specific knowledge within the blockchain space. We look forward to building even greater things with Node Factory throughout the multi-chain tomorrow that we have envisioned since we took our first step in this journey,” states Aidan Hyman, CEO and co-founder of ChainSafe.

Node Factory is a blockchain R&D firm based in Zagreb, Croatia. They are a team of experienced developers that have made important contributions to dApp, infrastructure, and tooling development for Web 3.0 and networks such as Polkadot and Filecoin. The company has created products such as ChainGuardian, a desktop application for Eth2 validators, and FilSnap, a plugin for the MetaMask browser wallet enabling users to interact with Filecoin dApps. They have also helped a host of startups launch their own decentralized applications. Marin Petrunic, co-founder and CTO of Node Factory, first got involved with ChainSafe by being an external contributor on Lodestar, ChainSafe’s Eth2 TypeScript implementation. These open source contributions eventually led to conversations about ChainSafe’s acquisition of Node Factory to combine efforts.

“Node Factory’s priorities have always been on delivering quality work on the edge. Joining the larger ChainSafe crew will give our existing portfolio even more development resources to produce even more cutting-edge work, and allow both teams to cross-pollinate our learnings and research to meaningfully grow and build extraordinary things,” states Belma Gutlic, co-founder and CEO at Node Factory.

With ChainSafe intaking the Node Factory roster, it further bolsters their already deep pool of global blockchain developer talent. On the leadership front, Node Factory co-founder and CEO Belma Gutlic will join ChainSafe as Head of Solutions, while Marin Petrunic, co-founder and CTO at Node Factory will join as ChainSafe’s Europe Lead. This announcement is the first of its kind in ChainSafe’s history. Going forward, the organization will likely look to more strategic moves of this kind as their business scales up to include more blockchains and newer product offerings which leverage the same technologies they are helping to build.

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Accenture Expands Oracle Capabilities in Canada with Cloudworks Acquisition

Cloud

Accenture has acquired Cloudworks, a leading Toronto-based Oracle Cloud implementation service provider across North America. The deal further enhances Accenture’s capabilities to deliver Oracle solutions to clients on their journeys to the cloud. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Cloudworks, founded in 2016, specializes in strategy, business and technology consulting and has become well known for Oracle Cloud-based solutions in Enterprise Resource Planning, Enterprise Performance Management and Human Capital Management. Cloudworks has leading capabilities in robotic process automation (RPA), data analytics and AI, which help maximize the business value for clients’ investments in Oracle Cloud.

The company supports clients in several industries, including transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, mining, oil & gas, utilities and energy, telecommunications & media, financial services, real estate, public sector, and higher education. The majority of Cloudworks’ 100 employees are located in Toronto, with additional offices in Calgary, and other locations throughout the United States.

“As organizations across Canada continue to accelerate their technology transformation programs, we anticipate the demand for Oracle solutions to grow significantly,” said Jeffrey Russell, president of Accenture in Canada. “By acquiring Cloudworks, we add a highly talented team with industry-specific experience in combining the power of Oracle with the ingenuity of people to unlock new possibilities for clients.”

Jennifer Jackson, Accenture Technology lead for Canada, said, “Cloudworks is a well-known Oracle services provider that has worked with organizations across Canada and across industries. We are thrilled to grow our Technology practice in Canada with the Cloudworks team who strengthen our ability to meet the growing need from Canadian organizations to unleash the power of cloud, data and innovation to create truly future-ready organizations.” 

Samia Tarraf, Accenture Oracle Business Group lead for North America said, “The impact of the Cloudworks team and its experience working with clients in Canada and the U.S. bolsters our entire Oracle business in North America as organizations fast-track their cloud journeys and look to Oracle Cloud applications to create more value and make their businesses more resilient.” 

Jason Nott, cofounder and CEO of Cloudworks, added, “With Accenture’s in-depth capabilities, global scale and experience co-creating and co-developing Oracle solutions, we look forward to delivering greater value for clients, as well as opening up new opportunities for our people. Joining Accenture will also help Cloudworks provide more services to clients through its global team of experts in digital, cloud and robotic process automation.” 

Cloudworks marks the third acquisition for Accenture Canada over the last year. Accenture acquired Avenai, an Ottawa consultancy focused on public service organizations, and Callisto Integration, an Oakville, Ontario provider of consulting and technology services in digital manufacturing in food and beverage, chemicals, utilities and other industries, both in 2020. 

Globally, in 2021, Accenture has announced two Oracle-focused acquisitions: Nell’Armonia, a leading consulting and technology company specialized in enterprise performance management solutions, headquartered in Paris, France, and AppsPro, one of the leading Oracle Cloud implementation service providers in Saudi Arabia. 

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RBC to Become Financial Anchor at Hub350, Canada’s Largest Technology Park

Digital Finance Services

One of Canada’s largest banks is focusing on delivering innovative capital solutions and a global footprint to Hub350

The Kanata North Business Association (KNBA) and Hub350 have announced a collaboration with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that will see the bank become the anchor financial sponsor for the hub, bringing innovative financial services and expertise to technology entrepreneurs at all stages of their lifecycle.   

With RBC at its helm as anchor financial sponsor, Hub350 will officially launch this fall, creating both a physical gateway for Canada’s largest technology park at 350 Legget Drive, and fostering a collaborative environment where corporate innovation partners, academia, investors and talent from across the country and around the world can connect to Kanata North’s 540 companies immediately.

“RBC’s visionary support for Canada’s entrepreneurs is no secret, and it makes them the perfect financial partner for Hub350,” said Victoria McGlone, Chief Operating Officer at KNBA. “As our unique ecosystem develops strategically to support entrepreneurs in a world-class way, we want to disrupt how our technology companies access capital, and work with partners like RBC to provide out of the box solutions to foster growth and create Canadian success stories.”

RBC will offer a full suite of banking services and knowledge products at HUB350, including RBCx, a market-leading platform to accelerate the entrepreneurial journey at every stage of growth, offering access to capital solutions, innovative financial products and services, and operational expertise to help technology companies scale.

Products and solutions for all companies, from inception to IPO, include:

  • Innovative financial products, including credit and specialized banking
  • Deep sector expertise in specialized tech verticals, including clean tech and life sciences
  • Offers from industry-leading providers within the RBCx marketplace
  • An inspired network of founders and funders engaged through curated events and content

“We are committed to supporting entrepreneurs – from startup to scale up – who are disrupting business models, industries and sectors,” said Raymond Rashed, Director, RBCx. “We feel we can do this best at Canada’s largest technology park and look forward to helping companies grow their ideas and products so Canadian-led innovation can be front and centre on the world stage.”

Kanata North has been steadily evolving into Canada’s leading hub for cutting-edge tech businesses and knowledge-based industries, having created over 33,000 skilled jobs and contributing over $13 billion to Canada’s GDP every year.

In collaboration with RBC and RBCx, KNBA is confident that connections with venture capitalists and lenders from government and private entities, both nationally and internationally, will be formed. The bank will have naming rights to the 4,000 square feet Finance Quarter at Hub350. RBC’s leadership will support KNBA member companies and help attract new organisations to the tech park. 

“For well over 25 years, RBC has invested in the potential of big ideas and big ambitions by working alongside so many innovators and entrepreneurs in Canada’s Tech Hub,” said Marjolaine Hudon, Regional President, RBC. “This partnership with Hub350 at KNBA builds on RBC’s unwavering support of our vibrant tech and innovation sector, which in turn benefits our community.”   

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Government of Canada Confirms Ambitious New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target

Canada CO2

Climate change is the greatest long-term threat that we face as a global community. It also represents an enormous economic opportunity.

Yesterday, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, formally submitted Canada’s enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations, committing Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 40‑45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Canada’s NDC submission outlines a series of investments, regulations and measures that the country is taking in pursuit of its ambitious target. It includes input from provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners. These actions are also detailed in a new publication, entitled Canada’s Climate Actions for a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy“.

This is Canada’s first emissions reduction target that is enshrined in law under the new Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2021.

Canada has joined over 120 countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada’s ambitious new NDC for 2030 keeps the country on course. It builds on a whole-of-government plan, Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan: A Healthy Environment and Healthy Economy”, that includes Canadians in all regions and all economic sectors.

At the same time, the government today confirmed that the minimum price on carbon pollution will increase by $15 per tonne each year starting in 2023 through to 2030. The national stringency standards—the “benchmark”—will be updated to ensure all provincial and territorial pricing systems are comparable in terms of stringency and effectiveness. Provinces and territories will continue to have the flexibility to implement the type of system that makes sense for their circumstances as long as they align with the benchmark.

The past 16 months of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have shown Canadians how a determined response can address a global crisis. Tackling climate change requires the same focus and commitment. Canada is on a path to exceed its previous 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels in partnership with provinces, territories, and Indigenous partners. By working with the private sector and others, the government is confident Canada can achieve its enhanced 2030 GHG emissions reduction target and build a healthier environment and healthier economy.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change says: “Canada’s ambitious new 2030 emissions target, our Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act and net-zero goal for 2050 are more than just plans for tackling climate change—as necessary as those are. By rewarding innovation and putting a cost on pollution, we are clearing the path to a cleaner, more competitive economy that benefits our children and grandchildren, and leaves a healthier world for those who follow.”

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Antitrust in the 21st Century – Kudos to Khan

Technology economy

By Dr Richard M. Smith, Berkeley Mathematician and PhD in System Science.

It’s difficult to fathom how big tech has gotten as close as it has to global dominance over the past quarter century, yet here we are.  Today, the five biggest tech companies constitute 22% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500.  That’s right – 1% of the companies in the S&P 500 make up 22% of the total value of the S&P 500.

Regulators, moreover, are struggling to rein in big tech under existing antitrust law as evidenced by the recent decision by a Federal District Court to dismiss a major antitrust suit against Facebook brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as a parallel suit brought by 48 state attorneys general.   Facebook celebrated by soaring to join Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google in the rarefied air of the $1 trillion dollar market cap club.

Just take a look at this shocking list from companiesmarketcap.com as of 7/6/2021:

These 5 tech titans are simply taking over the economy.  Meanwhile, sixth on the list is Tesla (another aspiring tech titan) and seventh on the list is Berkshire Hathaway where 40% of the portfolio consists of Apple stock!  It’s sobering indeed.

President Biden has taken a significant step in the right direction by appointing a new young gun to head the FTC – Lina Khan.  Ms. Khan may turn out to be to big tech what Ida Tarbell was to big oil back a century ago – only Ms. Khan is armed with a J.D. from Yale Law School.

In her groundbreaking 100 page “Note” published in the Yale Law Journal back in 2017 she focused her sights on Amazon and had this to say about Amazon’s market dominance:

It is as if Bezos charted the company’s growth by first drawing a map of antitrust laws, and then devising routes to smoothly bypass them. 

Ms. Khan is onto something here and her appointment to be the head of the FTC has put big tech on notice that this time may well be different.  Big tech has indeed taken notice.  Amazon even went so far as to ask that Ms. Khan be recused from overseeing Amazon given her “long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon, and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind.”

Sorry Amazon, her “long track record of detailed pronouncements” is exactly why she was appointed to head the FTC.

For too long now, big tech has been playing with regulators much like someone with a laser can play with a kitten.  Big tech dazzles and obfuscates and then hides under the pretense of “lowering prices for consumers” and “giving consumers the convenience they crave.”  Meanwhile, the burden of proof is on the regulators to prove that things like predatory pricing (i.e., lowering prices to crush competition long enough to establish dominance) is harming consumers in ways seen and unseen.  After all, what could be wrong with lower prices?

For the past 50 years now, antitrust law in the United States has centered around the notion of “consumer welfare” with the primary measurement of “consumer welfare” being measured by prices of goods and services.  No one, at the time, imagined that a company like Amazon would come along and game the system by systematically leveraging predatory pricing for nearly two decades to establish dominance.  Such is the genius of Bezos and company.

Finally, we have someone at the FTC that gets it.  The so-called “consumer welfare” standard of current antitrust law is not up to the challenge of taking on the titans of tech.  Ms. Khan correctly points out that the original foundation of U.S. antitrust law wasn’t just about pricing power – it was about process and structure and “excessive concentration of economic power.” 

Authentic antitrust regulation is about more than just constantly lower prices.  To quote Ms. Khan again it should promote “a variety of aims, including the preservation of open markets, the protection of producers and consumers from monopoly abuse and the dispersion of political and economic control.”

She goes on to say that focusing exclusively on consumer welfare, “disregards the host of other ways that excessive concentration can harm us – enabling firms to squeeze suppliers and producers, endangering systems stability (for instance, by allowing companies to become too big to fail), or undermining media diversity, to name a few.”

If you spend any time on the Internet, you know that avoiding Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google is not easy. Almost every click puts money in their pockets, from ad views to purchases to video streams.

They are everywhere. And that’s not even what’s most alarming! It’s the amount of data that comes from each click. Just by living our lives in the 21st century, we surrender a huge amount of our privacy to a few immense corporations. Until recently, it was an unchallenged opinion that personal data should remain personal. Today, that seems like the distant past.

The “free” services that dominate the digital landscape have made privacy obsolete. Data is the most valuable commodity in the world right now, and we hand it over every day to the biggest tech companies, in exchange for basic services like email and search.

The oil and steel companies of old were considered monopolies because they were inescapable, stifling competition and providing no real alternative for the consumer. Is there any more apt equivalent today than the data-powered juggernauts now under fire?

If you find the tradeoff of data for convenience a fair exchange, realize that the next step — what’s actually done with our data — is almost completely hidden from us.

The result is a casino-like imbalance of power. The whole game is tipped in favor of the “house,” who write and rewrite the rules as they go. The algorithms that determine so much of how we live our lives are, quite literally, trying to think for us. The tech giants understand the rules (because they write them), and we don’t.

There are few things today in the United States that inspire bipartisan support at the Federal level.  Big tech antitrust regulations and legislation is one of them.  We should wish Chairwoman Khan all the best in her new role and we shouldn’t worry too much if a few eggs get broken in the overdue process of restoring true competition and innovation in the technology economy.

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Over US$500 Billion across Food and Drink Industries at Risk from Marketing Restrictions

Drink cans
  • Brand Finance has estimated that a global imposition of marketing restrictions across the alcohol, confectionary, savoury snacks, and sugary drinks industries could result in a whopping US$521 billion loss to businesses
  • PepsiCo would lose the most on company level, with a potential loss of nearly US$62 billion, but rivals Coca-Cola could see the single largest loss on brand level with estimated US$43 billion at risk
  • Top alcohol companies face 100% revenue exposure. AB InBev would lose the most in absolute terms, with nearly US$40 billion of value at stake. Of Diageo’s brands, Johnnie Walker would be the second worst hit, losing US$3.5 billion
  • Original market research into opinions on brands and marketing restrictions, conducted among over 6,000 consumers across 12 countries worldwide, including over 500 surveyed in the UK, shows 70% – 90% levels of awareness of positive impacts of brands
  • Little appetite for sweeping marketing restrictions – fewer than 10% of consumers felt there should be a ban on TV advertising, billboards, in-store demonstrations, or distinctive packaging
  • Consensus that marketing restrictions aggravate the illicit trade problem – 80-90% of consumers acknowledge the role that brands play in supporting legal sales channels


Following the introduction of marketing restrictions for tobacco products and repeated calls to extend the legislation to more sectors, Brand Finance once again analysed the potential impact of such policies on food and drink brands. The latest Brand Finance Marketing Restrictions 2021 report – building on the analysis conducted in 2017 and 2019 – estimates potential loss to businesses at over US$500 billion and seeks to understand popular attitudes to brands and marketing restrictions thanks to insights from an original global consumer survey.

 

Over US$500 billion at risk

In the latest report, Brand Finance analysed the potential damage across alcohol, confectionery, savoury snacks, and sugary drinks brands which can result from the imposition of marketing restrictions across the globe. The analysis models the impact on enterprise value from potential reduction in the added value that brands contribute to the business – known as brand contribution.

The report looks at nine of the world’s biggest food and drink brand-owning companies: AB InBev, The Coca-Cola Company, Diageo, Heineken, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Pernod Ricard, and Treasury Wine Estates, as well as the industry as a whole.

The nine major brand-owning companies could lose a total of US$267 billion in enterprise value should marketing restrictions be implemented. On average, the companies in question could each lose nearly a quarter of their enterprise value and over 50% of brand contribution.

Looking beyond simply the nine companies analysed, and extrapolating this to the entire endangered industries globally, alcohol, confectionary, savoury snacks, and sugary drinks brands could lose a whopping US$521 billion.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Brands are integral to how the world operates. In times of crisis, brands – especially those most valuable and strongest in their categories and markets – become a safe haven for capital. Well-managed, innovative, and reputable brands are what the global economy turns to in the hour of need. Severe marketing restrictions are catastrophic, not only for brands, but for all stakeholders, from consumers and society, to investors and governments.”

 

Losses to soft drink giants

Given the importance of brand in the soft drink industry, imposing plain packaging or further limitations on advertising would cause severe damage. PepsiCo would lose the most in absolute terms among all companies studied, with a potential loss of nearly US$62 billion. PepsiCo’s flagship brand Pepsi is estimated to suffer the most within its portfolio, with US$23 billion at stake. However, The Coca-Cola Company’s flagship brand, Coca-Cola, would stand to lose US$43 billion – considerably more than bitter rival Pepsi and any other brand in the analysis. It constitutes the majority of the US$57 billion potential loss estimated for the company.

 

Top alcohol companies face 100% exposure

Alcoholic drinks giants, AB InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Treasury Wine Estates could face 100% revenue exposure should marketing restrictions be imposed on their sector on a global scale, due to their portfolios consisting entirely of products that would be affected by the legislation.

Diageo’s portfolio could lose US$24.9 billion as a result of marketing restrictions – amounting to 71.6% of the entire value that Diageo’s brands contribute to the business. This is the highest proportion among all companies analysed. World-famous Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker has the second most at stake amongst all brands in Diageo’s portfolio with US$3.5 billion in danger.

 

Global survey on attitudes to brands and marketing restrictions

Given the risks to brands from marketing restrictions, over 6,000 people were surveyed across 12 countries globally – including over 500 from the UK – with respondents asked their opinions on brands and marketing restrictions.

Additionally, 13 CMOs, who are currently or who were recently overseeing brand marketing in leading organisations in the sectors covered in the research, were interviewed about the contribution that brands make to economic and social wellbeing, as well as their concerns about marketing restrictions.

 

British attitudes to brands

Globally, and across the UK, the general public recognise the positive impact of brands, both on their everyday lives, as well as on wider societies and economies.

Although UK respondents’ perceptions about the impact of brands is less favourable than the global sample average, over 80% of UK respondents agree that brands encourage product quality, improve choice, make a contribution to the economy, and acknowledge the role of brands in limiting illicit trade. Over three quarters of British respondents also agree that brands support the media and the job market.

Jane Reeve, Chief Communication Officer, Ferrari, commented:

“Strong brands support stronger economies which support employment.”

 

Which of these impacts do you think brands provide or encourage?

Impact

Global

UK

Broader choice of products

95%

88%

Product quality and safety

93%

85%

I can buy genuine products in reputable stores

90%

84%

Making a contribution to the economy

89%

85%

Supporting media through advertising funding

86%

79%

Good jobs in roles such as marketing, sales, advertising

85%

78%

Encouraging better solutions for the environment

81%

72%

Better treatment of suppliers

80%

71%

Better treatment of employees

77%

71%

 

High expectations that brands should be a force for good

Consumers expect brands to be a positive force in society. They do not want brands that are silent on the causes that matter to them and there is a general expectation that brands should be doing their part to support society. As such, 72% of British respondents expect brands to provide superior product safety and production standards and 68% expect brands to undertake ethical sourcing and supply chains.

Doug Place, CMO, Nando’s – Africa, Middle East, South Asia, commented:

“Whether it’s environmental concerns, labour practices, renewable energy…we should leave the world in a better place as a result of our brand, not worse.”

 

What do you expect from brands?

Impact

Global

UK

Superior product safety and production standards

79%

72%

More ethical sourcing and supply chain

74%

68%

Better employment practices than small businesses

73%

63%

Leadership on equal treatment regardless of gender, race, disabilities, etc.

72%

64%

Supporting charitable causes

70%

57%

Leadership on waste reduction

69%

64%

 

Little appetite for sweeping marketing restrictions

Both the general public and CMOs understand that brand benefits can only be delivered if brands can market themselves, from product quality control to the added value for society.

The survey shows that consumers do not generally seek curbs on the most frequent marketing channels, regardless of product category. Across the global sample, fewer than 10% of consumers felt that there should be a ban on TV advertising, billboards, in-store demonstrations, or distinctive packaging – with little variation across product category.

Only a third of British respondents would support the most extreme form of marketing restrictions – plain packaging – across the industries at risk.

Consumers are brand literate but will not forego their own interests under the influence of marketing and advertising. Consumers are aware that brands are there to help them make informed decisions.

 

Marketing restrictions aggravate the illicit trade problem

Marketers and consumers are wary of over-regulation, as marketing restrictions – in particular plain packaging – can facilitate fraud and present a danger to consumers.

Shiyan Jayaweera, Head of Marketing, Lion Brewery, commented:

“Low-quality and illegal products are made up to look like a regulated beverage, which is confusing and endangers consumers. It is not easy to tell the difference between established brands and illicit products.”

Consumers emphatically acknowledge (80-90% agreement across markets analysed) the role that brands play in supporting legal sales channels, as well as helping to navigate between real and fake goods – and this brand literacy helps explain why most accept that brands should be allowed to promote themselves in a responsible fashion.

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Brazil Leapfrogs Indonesia As Most Complex Place To Do Business in 2021

Global business

Eighth annual Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI) reveals focus on good governance and responsible business; tougher penalties for breaching regulations; long-term impact of Covid-19 on global business landscape.

The comprehensive report by TMF Group, a leading professional services firm, analyses rules, regulations, tax rates, penalties and compliance issues across 77 jurisdictions, accounting for 92% of the world’s total GDP and 95% of net global FDI flows.

292 indicators are tracked annually, offering data on key aspects of doing business, including incorporation timelines, payroll and benefits, and staying compliant.

Brazil ranks as the most complex jurisdiction this year, leading a list of six Latin America countries in the top ten, with Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Costa Rica close behind. Brazil’s ranking owes a lot to bureaucracy: businesses register with three different levels of authorities (federal, state and city) when incorporating. Furthermore, tax rates differ from city to city and state to state.  

France and Poland top the European rankings as the 2nd and 10th most complex. Indonesia, at number six, is the only jurisdiction in APAC in the top ten.

Denmark and Hong Kong are the simplest jurisdictions, followed by the Cayman Islands, Ireland and Curaçao. Denmark’s success is driven by a straightforward incorporation process, acceptance of English documentation, and digitalisation.

The UK has moved down to 58th, meaning it is simpler to do business. The conclusion of Brexit, along with new international trade agreements, brings increased clarity and stability. Familiarity with digital tax processes has increased and the legislative environment stabilised – law changes resulting in greater economic substance requirements are unlikely to be approved within the next five years.

The United States continues to be an attractive destination, ranking 7th least complex. Factors driving ease of doing business include the three-week turnaround to incorporate via a single body, the ability to pay taxes from a foreign bank account, and that company directors need not be US residents. 

TMF Group CEO Mark Weil said: “Our 2021 report is written in the shadow of Covid-19 and the disruptions to travel, trade and health that it has brought. Within that difficult backdrop, attracting and encouraging business investment remains a critical driver of the world economy and local prosperity, and we at TMF Group are pleased to play our part in encouraging simplification by regulators and governments.

“A continuing observation, from our eight years of reporting on complexity, is that some of the most attractive markets to operate in are both the most complex and the most punitive for getting things wrong. Firms typically have a small number of large bases, often in relatively simple locations to operate in. They then have a long tail of offices at lower scale in more complex locations. That exposure caused by their ‘complex tail’ is where risk concentrates.”

In addition to analysing 77 locations, the report identifies key themes shaping the global business landscape and regulatory environment.


Stricter penalties

There has been a global increase in penalties for non-compliance. Fines are the most common penalty for accounting and tax misdemeanours, imposed for doing business without being tax registered in 93% of jurisdictions in 2021 compared to 84% last year.

Penalties are more stringent in complex jurisdictions. While 45% of jurisdictions globally can suspend an operating licence for doing business without being tax registered, this jumps to 70% in more complex jurisdictions. Since 2020, there has also been an increase in fines for errors in tax reporting and payment.

 

Rise of responsible governance

There is renewed focus on ensuring companies behave responsibly across all business activities, from employing workers to paying taxes and ensuring transparent structures.

Requirements such as UBO and PSC have remained steady since 2020, as has the percentage of jurisdictions adopting ownership records, demonstrating that transparency processes are consistent year-on-year. The report shows the requirement to provide UBO and/or PSC information to a central register is highest in EMEA at 82% of jurisdictions compared to 43% in APAC.

The mandated involvement of a third party in business operations has increased. In 2020, 17% of jurisdictions required that an entity appoint and register a certified accountant, compared to 27% in 2021.


Impact of Covid-19 on digitalisation, HR and payroll

Covid-19 has accelerated the trends toward process digitalisation and simplification of interactions between businesses and government authorities. In 2021 the automatic notification of all relevant state authorities when a company incorporates rose to 14% of jurisdictions globally, up from 6% in 2020.

Some jurisdictions are temporarily permitting digital signatures, a step which is predicted by our experts to become a long-term change. Conversely, there have been significant delays in jurisdictions such as Colombia and Argentina where in-person appointments are required to process incorporation documentation.

The report highlights how the pandemic has changed how companies manage employees. In 2021, 20% of jurisdictions allowed businesses to dismiss an employee without reason, falling from 29% in 2020. North America’s 14 jurisdictions contributed most to this fall, with 64% permitting such dismissals in 2020 versus 23% in 2021.

Remote working and a globalised workforce bring challenges in hiring and payroll, across and within jurisdictions. In the US, Covid-19 has led to companies hiring remote workers in different states, bringing payroll challenges because income taxes are set and reported at state level.

 

Top ten:

 

  1. Brazil
  2. France           
  3. Mexico           
  4. Colombia
  5. Turkey
  6. Indonesia
  7. Argentina
  8. Bolivia
  9. Costa Rica
  10. Poland


Bottom ten:

  1. Mauritius
  2. El Salvador
  3. The Netherlands
  4. United States
  5. British Virgin Islands
  6. Curaçao
  7. Ireland
  8. Cayman Islands
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Denmark

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Atlantic Charter Can Advance Innovation as We ‘Build Back Better’ from Covid-19

UK USA

A UK-US Atlantic Charter designed to work for the post-COVID benefit of humanity has been hailed as a huge opportunity for healthcare innovation and, particularly future pandemic protection technology.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden have prioritized a global initiative to end and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and enhance transatlantic cooperation in several areas including technology, healthcare, and aviation.

This was welcomed by the World Nano Foundation (WNF), promoting nanotechnology – innovation at a molecular and atomic level – which has played a significant role in fighting COVID-19 through vaccine and testing developments.

Paul Stannard, the not-for-profit WNF’s Chairman, said: “The UK and US have always been frontrunners in scaling innovation and funding, and we have witnessed a wave of amazing technological advances in recent years.

“This has then been accelerated by the pandemic where healthcare developments have advanced by a decade in just six months and caused surging investment in that sector.

“Now, with further impetus from a UK-US Atlantic Charter – nearly 80 years on from the original Charter signed by the two nations’ wartime premiers Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt – we can expect transformation across many industries, developing sustainable healthcare, greater energy and food resources, upgrading infrastructure, and reducing carbon emissions in our cities.”

To strengthen UK and US efforts to beat the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent any future outbreaks, Johnson and Biden’s post-charter statement confirmed that they would jointly scale-up work on genomic sequencing and assessment of virus variants.

This includes the UK Health Security Agency’s new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness linking with its US counterpart, the proposed National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, within an integrated global surveillance system to be known as Global Pandemic Radar.

Paul Stannard said: “We hope linking these two centres heralds a new era of strategic cooperation by reducing barriers British tech firms face when trying to work with US partners.

“By sharing expertise in areas like artificial intelligence and nanotechnology – including genomics and quantum technology – the UK and US could make breakthroughs that change the way we live forever.

“As the emergence of the more transmissible Delta, South African, and Kent variants has proved, we cannot simply rest on our laurels and rely on vaccines to end this pandemic or protect against the next.

“But I am excited by what transatlantic support at government level, coupled with soaring healthcare technology investment might deliver in the wake of COVID’s devastation to the global population and economy.”

Healthtech investment is expected to be worth $10 trillion by 2022 (source: Pitchbook), showing the global appetite for new healthcare systems, as well as treatments and vaccines for new and existing diseases.

Stannard has witnessed this growth as a co-founder of the Luxembourg-based Vector Innovation Fund (VIF) specifically created to foster ‘new age’ healthtech, and starting with a $300 million Pandemic Protection Sub-fund:

“We are developing a multi-billion-dollar pipeline of investments to fast track and commercialize these technologies – the world cannot afford to be laid low again by a pandemic.

“So we welcome the Atlantic Charter and believe it can represent a new age of healthtech investment, and also hope Europe and the UK can find a similar path forward, since past collaboration across a network of continent-wide nanomedicine centres of excellence has enabled so many healthcare advances.”

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Labor Markets in the Region Will Be Slow to Recover from the Severe Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020

Covid recovery

A new ECLAC-ILO joint publication warns that in order to reduce the high unemployment rates seen during the pandemic, significant efforts will be needed on employment policies aimed at the most vulnerable groups.

Regional GDP in 2020 experienced a -7.1% contraction, the biggest in a century, producing in turn a drop in employment and an increase in the unemployment rate, which reached 10.5% on average that same year, ECLAC and the ILO indicate in a new study released earlier in June.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched this Monday, June 14, edition No. 24 of their joint publication, Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean (June 2021) – now available online – in which they analyze the impact of the crisis prompted by COVID-19 on the main labor market indicators in 2020.

According to the document, the biggest effects were seen in the second quarter of last year, when governments implemented confinement measures and others aimed at containing the pandemic. These measures produced a sharp drop in economic activity, employment, and in the number of hours worked. Many workers, mainly informal ones, were unable to continue their productive tasks and had to withdraw from the market, which prevented them from earning income for their households and acting in a countercyclical way, as in previous crises. Furthermore, the suspension of care services and schools gave rise to a heavy workload inside homes, which is unequally distributed in general, overburdening women in particular.

Starting in the third quarter of the year, workers began returning to the labor market and a gradual increase in employment was observed. However, 2020 ended with lower levels of labor participation and employment and higher levels of unemployment than what existed before the pandemic.

“Given the depth of the impact of the crisis in the region’s labor markets in 2020, countries must implement policies that stimulate job creation, particularly among the most vulnerable groups such as young people and women,” Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, and Vinícius Pinheiro, the ILO’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, stated in the publication’s foreword. The two officials also stressed the importance of regulating new forms of hiring through digital platforms.

According to the report, the contraction in employment in 2020 was much more pronounced in sectors such as the hotel business (19.2%), construction (11.7%), trade (10.8%) and transportation (9.2%), which together account for around 40% of regional employment. At the same time, industry (8.6%) and other services (7.5%) also experienced contractions, while in the agricultural sector there were comparatively fewer job losses (2.4%).

Both United Nations organizations emphasize that it is essential to think about strategies that would enable laying the foundations for a return to the job market with better labor conditions for all workers. This entails shoring up the employment recovery in the most highly affected categories and sectors, improving institutional aspects regarding health and job safety, formalizing workers, promoting women’s labor inclusion, and adequately regulating new work modalities.

In the current edition of the Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC and the ILO also examine key aspects of decent work for workers mediated by digital platforms. During the pandemic, these workers constituted a very important source of employment due to the need to reduce personal contact and maintain the dispatch of essential goods. However, evidence suggests that there is a high degree of precariousness in this work modality characterized by instability, long workdays, the absence of socio-labor protection, and the lack of options for dialogue and representation.

The report emphasizes the need to design adequate regulatory frameworks to achieve the goal of establishing and protecting social and labor rights for these new and expanding work modalities.

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Canadian Retail Executives Weigh In on the Future of Market Planning

Retail marketing

Location analytics leader, PiinPoint, has been supporting brands across North America to use data and analytics in their retail strategy since 2014. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail playbook has been turned on its head, requiring organizational adaptability from retailers as they experienced a rapid rate of change.

The new realities faced by retailers over the last year have gained significant traction and present long-lasting implications to businesses and how they will plan their market strategy in 2022 and beyond. Though the end of 2021 may reflect a surge of “normal” shopping behaviour from pent-up demand, the next year presents a big question mark. How will retailers combine the best of their digital and physical worlds to remain relevant?

“The demands on retailers to leverage new attitudes and analytics to make experimental strategies from 2020 a lasting success are pressing,” explains Jim Robeson, CEO at PiinPoint. “For retailers to adequately evolve and be successful, they’ll need to remain relevant to a new consumer that lives in diversified markets, has adopted digital tools, and cares a lot about convenience, personalized experiences, and social consciousness.”

Through a series of executive interviews across key retail verticals, Canadian retail executives weighed in on which long-lasting dynamics will need to be embraced in a post-COVID world. Five trends were identified and the implications for market planning are clear:

  1. Brand Beware. The Threat of Retail Cancel Culture
  2. Rural is the new Urban
  3. Retail Prescribed by the Consumer
  4. Real Estate Teams Do More than Secure the Dirt
  5. De-Risk Brick & Mortar Strategy through Experimentation

Retail brands are realizing the depth to which the consumer must feel represented – in customer service, product options, marketing, values and beliefs – and that an intimate understanding of the consumer must underpin all strategy decisions for the organization. These behaviours challenge age-old assumptions about what a good retail experience is, and subsequently, how to plan for real estate. As a result, Retail Analytics must adopt a location dimension, or lose the nuance of a local market.

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