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Blockchain Technology in Logistics

August 2017 |

The second largest port in Europe by container capacity is now running a pilot blockchain project focused on logistics automation.

Belgium-based Port of Antwerp has announced that it is looking to use the tech to automate and streamline the terminal's container logistics operations. The test is being conducted in conjunction with a blockchain startup called T-Mining.

The goal, port authorities said in a new release, is to speed up the interactions between port customers to prevent the malicious manipulation of data.

According to the terminal authority, moving containers from point to point often involves more than 30 different parties, including carriers, terminals, forwarders, haulers, drivers, shippers and more. This process results in hundreds of interactions between those parties, conducted through a mix of e-mail, phone and fax. "The paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport," the authority noted.
The trial is the latest to center around shipping logistics and involve a notable player in the global terminal industry.

According to data from the World Shipping Council, the Port of Antwerp ranked fourteenth globally among container ports by terminal capacity in 2015. It's also the second largest in Europe after Rotterdam, which has been testing blockchain for logistical purposes as well.

Italy - fully of energy

August 2017 |


Over recent years the energy market in Italy has changed quite dramatically.

Seven years ago, the top issue was renewable energy, not so much because of any green conscience but because it was highly subsidised by the government to help the industry's development. 

The growth of renewable energy was the goal of each individual country in the EU, as was actually the case all across Europe.  In Italy, renewable energy incentives in general and photovoltaic, in particular, were consequently very heavily subsidised.  Over time they became an opportunity for speculation by lobbyists, investors and banks. More so than in any other European country. The market in those years was “on drugs”.

Companies were born from scratch, offering, selling and installing photovoltaic plants, and banks offered very advantageous loans. But then, as the incentives ended in 2013, the bubble burst. Banks were based on excessively optimistic investment plans and changes in the industry frightened investors and several pulled back. Only companies with a solid foundation and structure survived.

As the equilibrium was restored, Richmond Italia which has organized the Energy Business Forum since 2010, began to observe a strong change. The market resumed and our event recorded an exponential growth of + 136% in the last three years.

But what are the areas of greatest interest in the energy market that our experience has shown?

We have noticed that renewable energies are always requested by our participating delegates, especially photovoltaic, but the offer of solar photovoltaic suppliers is low, while ESCo (Energy Service Company) delivering integrated services guaranteeing their results on the interventions and financing through third parties, increase their participation.

Another area in which growth is strong is cogeneration, which offers environmental, energy and economic benefits.

The main focus of last year’s Energy Business forum was energy efficiency. But there is a new focus that will be the core of new business models in the future:  energy digitalization. The potential that digitalization brings to the energy industry is vast and the Energy Business Forum suppliers won’t miss the opportunities.
Richmond Italia will organize 13 forums in 2018. Energy Business forum suppliers understand the unique opportunity to develop new business and delegates appreciate the importance of building a direct relationship with them.

Top Swiss CFOs meet in Interlaken

August 2017 |

Richmond invited 110 CFOs from both multinational and national companies in Switzerland to join the 7th  Richmond Finance Directors’ Forum in Interlaken this year. The Forum is fully booked and all CFO places were filled three months ago.

At the beginning of September 2017, delegates from companies like ABB, Clear Channel, Camille Bloch, Coca-Cola, Coop, DHL, Jelmoli, Miele, Odlo, Oerlikon, Olympus, Otis, Samsung, USM and Zur Rose will follow their individual meeting schedules of their choice and will attend exclusive conference sessions.

One of the highlights of our conference will be the opening keynote of Prof. Hans-Werner Sinn, former President of the Ifo Institute (Germany), Professor for Economics and Public Finance at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and consultant to the German government.

He will speak on The European Competitiveness Crisis:
  • Southern Europe does not suffer from a cyclical downswing, but from a competitive crisis.
  • Competitiveness was lost in the inflationary credit bubble the euro brought.
  • There are only four options: transfer union, deflation or disinflation in the south, re-inflating the north, exits.
  • Macron will try to install a transfer union   
Our high-level conference will cover other interesting topics such as future trends,  with a keynote by Gerd Leonhard (Futurist and global top 100 speaker) about Exponential Change, “digitalization and the value of artificial intelligence” as well as “the disruptiveness of the 4th industrial revolution”.
The programme will also reflect the challenges given us by a study of participating CFOs on Reporting & Controlling, Leadership Management etc.

CFO demographics

How much does Brexit really matter to business? David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times

August 2017 |
The start of the football season fills some people with excitement and anticipation but is a matter of supreme indifference to very many others. If this is true of one of our most popular sports, to what extent does it also apply to Brexit and business? Given the wall to wall coverage of Britain’s tortuous progress to the EU exit door, to what extent is this also a matter of indifference, indeed extended boredom, for most businesses?
If we go back to the days before June 23 2016, one of the arguments of the pro-Brexit camp was that most UK firms do not export into the EU’s single market but are still subject to its rules and regulations. For them, EU membership brought Brussels red tape but no business advantages.

As a matter of simple fact it is true that, because the majority of UK businesses are not engaged in export at all, most do not export to the EU. Though Britain is a trading nation, business, particularly small business, is overwhelmingly domestically focused. It is not hard to see why. Think of the sectors of the economy, ranging from retail, through to hotels and catering, construction and the myriad of service businesses. Most have a sphere of influence which stretches for a few miles.

Estimates of the proportion of all businesses which export to the EU range from 5% to 11%, with the independent organisation Full Fact suggesting 8% is a reasonable compromise figure. So more than 90% of firms do not export to the EU. A larger figure emerges when the calculation takes in firms which sell to others which are directly involved in the EU supply chain. These indirect EU exporters add about 15% to the total, making 23% in all. But that still leaves more than three-quarters of businesses which are not EU exporters.
Interesting, and despite this, surveys showed significant net support for EU membership across businesses of all sizes. That support was least among micro firms, and greatest among larger businesses, but it was there. Perhaps firms were sceptical of promises of a bonfire of red tape, having heard such promises before.

If so, they were right. The government has made clear that it intended to retain, or indeed enhance, labour market regulations and, for a considerable period, EU regulations will be embodied in UK law. That does not stop a future government from deregulating, though the starting point is that Britain has one of the least regulated economies in the world.

The other point, which many smaller businesses are fully aware of, is that if something were to go badly wrong for Britain’s exports to the EU, and there is no early substitute in stronger non-EU exports, the hit that the economy would take would inevitably filter through to everybody.

Last year, Britain exported £144 billion of goods to the EU, 48% of total exports of goods. Exports of services to the EU, despite the frustration of the single market in services not being complete, though well developed in some areas, were around 40% of total exports of services.

There is another point, beyond trade, which affects many businesses in Britain. On my travels I have been surprised to find, even in the most obscure places, staff from other EU countries behind the bar, counter or hotel reception. In most sectors migrant workers – not all from the rest of the EU – account for between 10% and 20% of staff totals. Some 11% of all employees are foreign nationals, while around 17% are foreign-born. Smaller firms fear, not that they will be unable to employ EU migrants in future, but that the process of doing so will involve a lot of red tape.

US Business Panel Research on Brand

August 2017 |
report-cover.pngNo real surprise that marketing leads the way in terms of being primarily responsible for the brand, with this being the case for over 7 in 10 organizations.  

In terms of influencing the customer’s perception of the brand, again marketing leads the way, yet surprisingly for less than half of the panel.  The next areas seen to have most influence are Sales, and Operations.  

97% of the panel feel brand reputation is very or quite important to their organization. Only 3% (thankfully or bizarrely dependent on your point of view) find it not very or not at all important.

Despite its importance (above) two thirds measure brand reputation, one fifth don’t and the rest aren’t sure.
The top 3 tools to measure an organization’s brand reputation are social media tracking & analysis, focus groups and brand tracking research.   

The panel feels 35% of their department have high engagement levels with the brand, compared to 30% of the wider organization and 32% of their customers.  It may be considered slightly worrying that the figure is higher for customer engagement than it is for their colleagues in other departments.

The panel also feel 17% of their department have low engagement levels for their brand, as opposed to only 15% of their customers.  A potential problem?

63% of the panel feel there is a slight mismatch between what their customers and what their employees think of their brand.  A similar number, 62% feel their own perception of their brand is similar to their customers’ perception.

Vacation! What vacation? Nick Turner

August 2017 |

Here it is again, the most stress-ridden part of the year.

I left it late this year, and already a few days into trying to organise something, my blood pressure is soaring, the family are revolting, and I wonder what on earth is the benefit of this annual ritual.


It's not complicated.  We are a nuclear family of 4, with a dog, a cat and 2 chickens in addition. Mother, Father, a 17-year-old computer geek teenage boy, and a bossy madam hiding in the body of a 10-year-old little girl.

Shifts for mother's nursing job, court dates for my trial bookings, works holidays for my trainee carpenter son, and pre-booked holiday clubs for the 10-year-old; all these must be juggled to find 14 days that fit all. Something or someone has to give in this stand off. For some inexplicable reason I find myself going before Judges with applications to vacate trial dates as anything else is allegedly immovable as far as the other three are concerned.

This means aggravation, rows in Court, and more stress.

We end up settling on a 10-day break.

As a moderately intelligent family, we decide to set about tailor-making our own holiday. You know what I mean, book our flights, accommodation and transfers all separately.

Logic dictates that we find the accommodation first. A friend of a friend has a lovely villa available at just the right time. But that demands an exchange of emails, a negotiation on price, complex arrangements about picking up keys/ bed linen and towels. Then payments by BACS transfers to some account in the Channel Islands which involves a visit to the Bank and more emails.

Then comes the flights and of course there are now dozens of websites out there offering comparisons. After hours of cursing I manage to find the airport of departure and the one of arrival, insert the dates, add the age of the 10-year-old and in seconds numerous choices come up on the screen.

I go for the cheapest and spend the next few hours trying to sort out the booking, with the names of everyone and then I am asked how many bags. Naturally I insert one bag per person and mysteriously the price has risen by £224. My internet-savvy son points out that this budget airline charges for every hold bag at £28 per bag per flight.

Suddenly it’s not the cheapest.

I start again, and another few hours drift by and I find a flight where a bag in the hold is not separately charged for. Happy days, but I am acutely aware that valuable hours of my life have slipped by in this annoying process.

Exhausted I start musing about the fact that the flight arrives at 9 in the evening and the villa is some 65 miles from the airport. Security at the villa complex closes at 10.30, there are no trains or buses between the airport and the resort and therefore we will have to hire a car.

Back to the comparison websites again.

The nightmare suddenly became one step worse. I am of course tempted and driven by price. A Fiat Cinquecento seems adequate for our needs. My wife sees us requiring acres of space and pushes for a people carrier. My son thinks the open top Audi will be the coolest down by the beach. At least my 10-year-old thinks the Fiat is the prettiest because it looks like it has a smiley face.

We end up as usual with a nondescript Kia. I realise that at our destination airport there are at least 5 competing hire outfits from the international to the local. I choose the cheapest.

Next, we check our passports. The 10-year old's has 5 months left on it, and my wife of foreign extraction has even less.

This involves us in making desperate arrangements with her Consulate in London for an appointment for renewal. We live 250 miles away. 2 days off work, asking friends to put us up, and increasing angst. The 10 year old’s goes off in the post for the express passport service and a few prayers!

As for the dog, we just cannot bring ourselves to place her in kennels, and this means calling in favours from dog friendly friends to have her whilst we are away. Intelligent though she is, it doesn’t seem right to leave 10 meals set out for her, and train her to let herself in and out, in the short few days before departure.

The cat, if we can catch him, and bag him without serious injury to ourselves will go hissing and spitting to the cattery…..but he can’t because his yearly injections are not up to date. Urgent appointment with the vet, and all nearby catteries are fully booked. After two dozen calls we find a cattery that has a cancellation but that is 35 miles away. I can’t take much more!

The hens; a neighbour volunteers, but that means this particularly nosy neighbour will have access to our home with a key for the whole duration. I start wondering where I can hide things.


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