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Season’s Greetings From Bologna

December 24, 2015

As of this foggy but warm December 2015, my hometown of Bologna, in northern Italy, is only about 2,500 thousand years old.

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In Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, the landmark Fountain of Neptune and this year’s Christmas tree (Valentina Pasquali)

But it is not only the city that is aging, its residents are too. For decades, Bologna has displayed very low birth rates. In 2014, there were only 8.2 live births for 1,000 people, below the already lagging Italian national average of 8.3 (data from Istat, Italy’s equivalent of the US Census Bureau). In comparison, the United States had 12.4 live births for 1,000 people (latest data is for 2013, from the National Center for Health Statistics). As a result, Bologna is growing older while its children are becoming an increasingly smaller percentage of the population. This trend is slated to continue in the coming years.

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Age composition of the population of Bologna: 2014, 2030 (Valentina Pasquali)

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The outsized role of the Fed and the uncertain road to normalcy

December 23, 2015

Originally published in Aspenia Online

When the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) pulled the trigger in mid-December on its first interest rate hike in nine years, its decision was a long-time coming. In the face of a steadily improving domestic economy, the American central bank had been looking for the right opportunity to tighten for months. It held back only because of a series of negative international developments, from Greece’s reignited debt crisis in the spring to China’s economic turmoil in the summer.

The rationale behind the Fed’s latest move and its consequences are now hotly debated at home and abroad. In all likelihood, they will continue to be so for the foreseeable future given the scope and depth of the effort the Fed undertook since 2008 (in combination with other central banks in the developed world) to help pull the American, and global, economy out of the Great Recession. What is clear, however, is that Chair Janet Yellen and her fellow monetary policymakers in the US have now reached the end of the line in terms of their willingness to push the envelop and embrace an unconventional approach to easing of such historic proportions. This begs the question of who is going to pick up the slack and drive the economy forward as the Fed gradually moves back into its comfort zone and as monetary policy, at least in the US, begins to recede from the headlines into the background where it has traditionally belonged.

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Future Growth In Ecuador Linked To “Knowledge” Economy

December 21, 2015
Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

In the province of Imbabura in northern Ecuador, approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital, Quito, and close to the border of Colombia, sits Yachay, the country’s first planned “city of knowledge.”


Centered on a research university, this science and technology park and special-economic-zone-in-the-making aims to become an international innovation hub and to foster technology-intensive businesses in industries from biotech to telecoms to manufacturing. “Yachay is oriented to the development of technology and its transfer to the industrial sector,” says its CEO, Héctor Rodríguez,“in order to help transform Ecuador’s into a knowledge-based economy.”

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A Virtual Deal-Making Machine

December 21, 2015

Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

In this age of social media, even business matchmaking, traditionally the domain of word of mouth and handshakes, could use a little tech facelift.

That, at least, is what Opportunity Network’s CEO Brian Pallas believes. His company offers a way for top executives all over the world to seek each other out and partner up for possible deals without having ever met.

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The US debate on climate policy after the Paris agreement

December 21, 2015

Originally published in Aspenia Online

US President Barack Obama called the climate change agreement signed in Paris on December 12 by the representatives of nearly 200 countries “a turning point for the world.” On the other hand, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said it “goes nowhere near far enough,” while the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, warned that it “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” if a Republican is elected president in November 2016.

In a nutshell, this is the spectrum of reactions to the climate deal by… Read more…

Digital Services On The Rise

December 16, 2015

Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

A Q&A with Hubert Jolly, Citi

Global Finance: What recent developments in the corporate digital banking space have caught your attention?

Hubert Jolly
Managing Director, Head of Channel & Enterprise Services, Treasury & Trade Solutions
Citi

Hubert Jolly: There are three main trends: Corporate clients are looking to get a more intuitive online banking experience, so we try to make it easy for them to use digital platforms similar to consumer applications. Secondly, we want to find ways to enable corporate users to do quicker tasks directly on their mobiles or tablets. Finally, we are working towards an omni-channel experience, where clients can send treasury transactions online but can also see them on their mobile or tablet device, and vice-versa.

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New Digital Frontiers

December 16, 2015

Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

A Q&A with Alex Chen, Executive Vice President, CTBC Bank

Global Finance: What role does social media play in banking?

Alex Chen: It plays several important ones: Customer service is provided not only on the phone but also on platforms like LINE and Facebook; transaction notifications can be received via email but also via LINE and Facebook. Interactions are not just between customers and banks but among customers themselves. Loyalty program rewards are not limited to financial products, but include those of our strategic partners.

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Slavery Act Puts Company Reputations On The Line

December 16, 2015
Originally published in Global Finance Magazine
With the enactment of the Modern Slavery Act in October, the United Kingdom has made a new addition to the growing body of compliance regulations sprouting up globally.

The new law requires large companies to file a slavery and human trafficking statement annually to prove that the necessary compliance programs are in place and that no labor is exploited at any level of their supply chain. While laudably ambitious, the legislation is vague. It also partially duplicates disclosure requirements already contained in the 2006 UK Companies Act.

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Poland’s New PM Gives Markets The Jitters

December 15, 2015
Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

The appointment of Beata Szydło as Poland’s new prime minister, following the victory of her conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) in the latest parliamentary election, has stirred concerns about her relative inexperience and a potentially populist, rightward lurch for the nation.

Beata Szydło: Charting a new course for Poland?

“She is a relatively young politician who has emerged as a good campaign organizer and charismatic personality,” says Tsveta Petrova, senior analyst for Central and Eastern Europe at the Eurasia Group. But “some people think that she might get overwhelmed” in the role of prime minister.” Her inexperience may give PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński an oversize role behind the scenes.

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Is Adeosun Up To Nigeria’s Challenge?

December 15, 2015

Originally published in Global Finance Magazine

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari announced his new cabinet in November, appointing former banker and government official Kemi Adeosun minister of Finance.

This came as a surprise, as many expected former Goldman Sachs banker Okechukwu Enelamah to land the job. He was named minister for Industry, Trade and Investment.

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