DEC 11, 2017 - The NEM.io Foundation, the organisation behind the NEM blockchain technology, is setting up shop in New Zealand as part of what it says is $US40 million global expansion plan, and has been in New Zealand promoting a $US90 million ($130m) global development fund that it says will help kick start local blockchain companies.
The NEM.io Foundation is a Singapore based not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is “to introduce, educate, and promote the use of the NEM blockchain technology platform on an international scale to all industries and institutions.”
NEM has its own cryptocurrency, XEM, that is says is “recognised as one of the top ten cryptocurrency by market capitalisation.”
A NEM.io Foundation team, led by Jason Lee, global director, partnerships and strategic alliances is hosting a series of introductory events in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga throughout December. The team also presented at the Blockchain Summit Auckland 2017.
A spokesman said that, in addition, the NEM.io Fondation team had been engaging with the Blockchain Association of New Zealand, universities and various blockchain companies and startups interested in the building on the NEM blockchain via the global development fund.
The head of the NEM.io Foundation in Australia and New Zealand, and a council member of the NEM.io Foundation, Nelson Valero, said the global development fund would help businesses, academics and developers feel empowered about the NEM blockchain technology and its potential to disrupt the way they manage information and data.
Lee said all applicants for funding had to be active members of the NEM community, but that this meant, “simply getting involved in conversations on our online forums.”
However, “If you are new to the community, you must have an endorser whom you think will be able to help you quality and contribute to your blockchain project,” he said.
The Foundation’s New Zealand initiative follows the opening of a NEM Blockchain centre in Kuala Lumpur as a joint initiative with the Australia-based Blockchain Centre (a not-for-profit sponsored by Blockchain Global and IBM). It says the centre will be a knowledge and innovation hub that will serve as an accelerator, incubator and co-working space.
The foundation claims to have a unique implementation of blockchain technology. “NEM is built from scratch as a powerful and streamlined platform for application developers of all kinds, not just as a digital currency,” it claims.
“Using NEM in your application is as simple as making RESTful JSON API calls allowing you to configure your own ‘Smart Assets’ and make use of NEM’s powerful blockchain platform as your fast, secure and scalable.
“Configured for your use, NEM is suitable for an amazing variety of solution classes, such as direct public transactions via streamlined smartphone app, efficient cloud services that connect client or web applications, or a high-performance permissioned enterprise back-end for business-critical record keeping.”
Dec 11, 2017 - Brand launch and Chamber of Commerce workshop help progress Ruapehu business ambitions. Two milestone events in support of Ruapehu business development and Council’s goal of increasing jobs, incomes and opportunities took place at the Chateau Tongariro Hotel last week.
The first was the official launch of Visit Ruapehu's new regional brand – ‘Our Greater Outdoors’ that was followed by a special workshop attended to discuss the possibility of establishing a Ruapehu Chamber of Commerce.
Visit Ruapehu Trade and Marketing Manager Jo Kennedy said that there was a lot of excitement around the new regional branding which was jointly funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and developed with input from leading tourism experts, local operators and community partners such as iwi.
“We now have strong, authentic brand marketing and communications material that will help enable tourism and visitor services to maximise its contribution to sustainable regional growth,” she said.
“Although the new brand was developed by the Ruapehu tourism and visitor sector it is available to other businesses wanting to give a regional context to their operations, products or service.”
“We now have the opportunity to align all Ruapehu, regional partners and other stakeholders to speak with one united vision and voice to promote our region.”
Around 25 people representing Ruapehu business including; farming, iwi, tourism, hospitality, consulting, utility companies, government agencies, manufacturing and small business took part take part in a workshop to discuss how a local Ruapehu Chamber could help support and inspire local business vitality and success.
Special guests at the workshop were Michael Barnett, Chief Executive of the Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Amanda Linsley, Chief Executive of the Manawatu Chamber of Commerce.
The workshop discussion highlighted that there was a strong consensus that a collective business voice could add value and help influence a wide range of Ruapehu issues that are challenging the business sector.
Mr. Barnett stressed the importance of Ruapehu businesses getting the “why” (we are doing it) right before focusing on the “what” (a Chamber could do).
“A key question is whether a local Chamber of Commerce is needed or whether another structure such as a Business Forum or some other arrangement would best suit Ruapehu’s needs,” he said.
Workshop participants agreed that they would consider the questions raised during the workshop over the summer before reconvening early in the New Year.
| A Ruapehu District council release || December 11, 2017 |||
Dec 8, 2017 - Over its long history, Canada’s banking industry has absorbed a range of adjacent players in the sprawling world of financial services: trust companies, investment dealers, property and casualty insurers, and wealth advisors. Many of these structural mergers involved both extensive regulatory reform as well as significant cultural shifts within the industry. Yet as Canada’s banks consolidated and expanded into these other verticals, they tended to impose their cautious ways rather than adopt the more free-wheeling ethic of the smaller players they had raced to acquire.
The fintech revolution, however, will demand a complete reboot of this well-established dynamic. As these ambitious startups evolve from giant-killing disrupters into innovation-minded partners for the banking sector, both sides are struggling to figure out how to live with one another.
Fintech firms offer entrepreneurial energy, innovative technologies and highly flexible consumer engagement techniques. But they also bring a healthy dose of impatience to a famously staid industry that was widely congratulated, almost a decade ago, for the corporate caution and regulatory prudence that allowed Canada’s banks to ride out the 2008 credit crisis.
Banks, for their part, are awakening to the realization that younger consumers want to do most of their banking on their mobile devices, which is also how they shop and consume news. The American Banking Association even published a tip sheet for its members on how to “make friends” with fintech.
It’s a tall order. The sluggish pace of in-branch or web-based banking and lending, hard-wired into the banking industry’s culture, is anathema to the fintech industry’s sense of urgency and opportunity, and reveals, to many of these startups, a reluctance to take chances on new mobile and data technologies.
Fintech firms offer entrepreneurial energy, innovative technologies and highly flexible consumer engagement techniques. But they also bring a healthy dose of impatience to a famously staid industry
As a former banking consultant who now helps raise capital for fintech startups, I can see both sides.
If it hopes to survive, the banking industry needs to find new ways of partnering with these nimble newcomers. Yet the learning has to happen in the other direction as well: if they want to succeed and grow, impatient fintech entrepreneurs must find ways to work with these large, closely regulated institutions.
Let’s start with the source of the chafing. Various fintech players with serious ambitions have told me they often feel worn down by bank clients’ insistence on historical performance data for innovations with no past, the dearth of seasoned innovation champions within these huge organizations, the lasting effects of legacy technologies, and frustratingly diffuse decision-making processes.
Risk aversion runs deep in the banking sector, and, in many cases, it seems to be a point of pride. As some fintech founders report, they’re often told by bank partners that every feature of a new service must work perfectly, while potential downsides are scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. And though fintech founders are acutely aware of the fast pace of their own industry, many come away from these encounters sensing that their banking partners have little sense of urgency.
Today, some banks are starting to see that there may be risks associated with their institutional inertia. Most have established innovation labs or are backing proof-of-concept projects with fintech partners. While some fintech startups express skepticism about these ventures, others offer up useful advice for their bank partners on how to make such forays succeed:
— resist the analysis-paralysis instinct and give your innovation teams sufficient scope to dive into proof-of-concept partnerships, knowing that some will fail
— ensure that there’s a business sponsor behind such pilot projects, as well as a path that leads to a possible deal, and
— be prepared to pay fintech partners for the value they create through successful initiatives that generate new service offerings and improved customer engagement.
But it’s a two-way street. Fintechs need the support of banks to help overcome one of their main challenges: getting to scale and ultimately putting products in front of customers. This can entail something of a Catch-22, however, because banks often seem to be more receptive to partnerships with fintech firms that have already created a compelling brand promise, have a consumer track record and bring their own investors or sponsors to the table.
Fintech options ease the pain points of financing for entrepreneurs ‘There’s no silver bullet here’: Global financial firms still grappling with fintech challenge, report finds
So, what does a successful partnership look like? These pairings, fintech firms say, will increase addressable market segments; demonstrate how an improved user experience leads to increased adoption; expand the lifetime value of a customer relationship; and focus on service offerings that minimize competitive tensions.
To work with fintech firms, banks also need to reconcile themselves to some unfamiliar practices, such as associating their brands with products and services they don’t necessarily own. And both parties have to find common ground on technical issues such as customer data sharing, anti-money-laundering/know-your-client compliance and which key performance indicators will be employed to measure success, given that at least initially, the new fintech partnerships are unlikely to make a dent in the top line.
As this difficult pairing game proceeds, it may be useful to look beyond the banking industry for learnings. My own suggestion: IBM in the early 1990s, when then-CEO Lou Gerstner, a former consumer packaged goods executive, radically shook up the sleepy culture of a massive tech manufacturer. Recognizing the mortal threats facing his company from both the hardware and software sides of the computer industry, Gerstner forced IBM’s tens of thousands of employees to begin thinking about creating business solutions that actually responded to its customers’ needs. The end result? During Gerstner’s tenure, among many other changes, he shut down unprofitable businesses and added valuable service offerings to the commoditized hardware business, increasing the market cap of IBM to US$168 billion from US$29 billion.
Simply put, fintechs are to the banking sector as Gerstner was to IBM: crucial change agents, pushing these giants to confront the uncertain future taking shape outside the walls of a fortified industry that’s far more exposed than Canada’s bankers may realize.
Change, as we know, is hard. Not changing, however, would be worse.
Roy Kao is senior advisor, Finance & Commerce, MaRS Discovery District. This article first appeared in the Ivey Business Journal.
| A Financial Post release || December 8, 2017 |||
Dec 8, 2017 - Figures released today show that Kiwis lost over $1.1 million to cyber security issues in the third quarter of 2017. This brings the total financial loss to New Zealanders from cyber security issues reported to CERT NZ to over $1.9 million since April. CERT NZ’s latest quarterly report was released today and shows that security threats continue to impact New Zealanders and their businesses.
“CERT NZ was launched in April 2017 to take reports from all New Zealanders about how they have been affected by cyber security incidents, so we can help them recover,” says Rob Pope, Director CERT NZ. “The reports we received in the quarter to 30 September show that our relative geographic isolation is no barrier to being affected by these threats.”
“Between 1 July and 30 September, CERT NZ received 390 incident reports of which the vast majority, 297, were responded to by CERT NZ.”
In this reporting period, CERT NZ has seen an increase in targeted invoice scams affecting both individuals and businesses around New Zealand. “As we noted in our previous report, targeted attacks are on the rise. In this quarter we’re seen an increase in invoice scams impacting New Zealand businesses through a range of means.
“We’ve also seen a marked decrease in ransomware reports following the global ransomware attacks that we saw earlier this year, with these reports dropping by over 50%.”
Mr Pope encourages all New Zealanders affected by cyber security issues to report them to CERT NZ, “Our team is here to help people who have been affected by cyber security issues by giving them advice and assistance on how to avoid and overcome them. The more reports we receive, the more information we can share with New Zealanders to help them protect themselves”
If you or your organisation experiences a cyber security threat – or if you suspect you may have been exposed to one – contact CERT NZ any time or call 0800 CERT NZ, Monday to Friday, 7am – 7pm.
| A Beehive release - MBIE || December 8, 2017 |||
Dec 7, 2017 - An article published today in the Reserve Bank Bulletin reviewed the policy responses by overseas central banks to house-price collapses. It was originally written by a contracted researcher, Maitland MacFarlan, as part of the Bank’s general consideration of risks around housing markets.
The article considers several episodes of house price collapses around the globe over the last 30 years, a period that encompasses the Nordic financial crises that began in the late 1980s, the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, and the more recent global financial crisis (GFC). The paper focuses on the policy responses to these problems and lessons that current policy makers can derive from these experiences.
The article observes a strong association between housing busts and banking crises, while noting that not all housing busts lead to a more generalised financial crisis, and not all financial crises are accompanied by house price collapses. Housing market crashes have highlighted the need for borrowers and lenders to take more forward-looking, longer-term perspectives on their exposure to market developments.
“The use of a ‘three week rule’ by Wendco (NZ) Limited to work out entitlements around public holidays meant some employees were not being provided with their full entitlements, and the employer was not meeting their obligations under the Holidays Act.
“To work out an employee’s rights to an alternative holiday, you need to know whether the day is an ‘otherwise working day’ for the employee.
“Working out whether the day is an ‘otherwise working day’ is a practical task, and each situation needs to be considered based on the employee’s specific situation and work pattern, where employers consider and apply all of the factors of s12 of the Holidays Act where they are relevant.
“If it’s unclear whether the day is an ‘otherwise working day’, the things that may need to be considered include what the employment agreement says, the employee's usual work patterns, what the rosters say, whether the employee would normally have worked, and any other relevant factors.
“Employers who configure their payroll system in a way that is convenient to themselves without proper regard to their obligations run a high risk of being non-compliant. While these considerations may require additional effort for some businesses, this is the law and they must abide by it.
“If any employer has breached their obligations through the use of such blanket rules, they must fix their processes to prevent future breaches, and ensure they pay their employees what they’re owed for past breaches.
“This is important as when employers fail to meet their obligations, the employees working hard to sustain the business miss out on their minimum entitlements. In addition, other businesses that do properly meet their obligations face unfair competition.”
Employers who are unsure if they are meeting their obligations under the Holidays Act should go to employment.govt.nz, where there is information, tools and flow charts to help employers become compliant, seek independent legal advice, or ring MBIE’s contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.
Employees who are concerned they are not receiving their minimum entitlements can do the same.
Dec 7, 2017 - Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today reduced its forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the 2017/18 season from $6.75 to $6.40 per kgMS and updated the market on its financial results for the first three months of the 2018 financial year. Chairman John Wilson says the lower forecast Farmgate Milk Price reflects a prudent approach to ongoing volatility in the global dairy market. The GlobalDairyTrade price for whole milk powder is a big influencer of the Farmgate Milk Price and it has declined by almost 10 percent since 1 August 2017.
“While the result of the arbitration with Danone has impacted our earnings guidance for the season, it has no influence on our forecast Farmgate Milk Price,” says Mr Wilson.
“What is driving this forecast is that despite demand for dairy remaining strong, particularly in China, other parts of Asia and Latin America, we are seeing strong production out of Europe and continued high levels of EU intervention stockpiles of Skim Milk Powder.
“This downward pressure on global prices is being partly offset by the lower NZ-US dollar exchange rate,” says Mr Wilson.
“Our strong financial position, customer order book at this point in the year, and confidence in demand means that the Board is able to increase the payments made in January by 10 cents per kgMS and will hold the Advance Rate through to the payments in May.
“In effect, our farmers will receive equal or higher payments for their milk over this period than were scheduled under the previous $6.75 milk price.
Fonterra has also updated its full season New Zealand milk collection forecast due to ongoing challenging weather conditions. The Co-operative has reduced its forecast by 1 per cent to 1,525 million kgMS – the same volume as last season.
First Quarter Financial Results
Fonterra’s first quarter revenue of $4 billion is up 4 per cent on the same period last year. Sales volumes are down 20 per cent to 3.9 billion liquid milk equivalent (LME), while the gross margin of 16.7 per cent is also down.
Chief Executive Theo Spierings says the first quarter financial results were generally as expected as the Co-operative started the year with record low inventory followed by the second year of low spring milk collections from New Zealand due to wet weather.
“This has challenged our Ingredients business where we had lower volumes to sell. As a result, sales were down 19 per cent to 3.6 billion LMEs compared to the same time last year.
The gross margin in Ingredients was in line with the second half of last year. However, when we compare it to the same period last year it was down from 12.1 per cent to 8.1 per cent, mainly due to the rise in commodity prices,” says Mr Spierings.
“Our Consumer and Foodservice business continued with strong sales volumes in our key markets across both Greater China and Asia with, overall, just a 3 per cent decline to 1.3 billion LMEs in total volume compared to the record levels at the same time last year.
“Gross margin in Consumer and Foodservice was 24 per cent. While this is down on the 31 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 when input costs were lower, it is up on the gross margin percentage in the last quarter of 2017. This positive trend demonstrates we can create more value in our Consumer and Foodservice business despite higher input costs and reflects the strength of our strategy of moving more volume into higher value.”
Mr Spierings says the Co-operative expected performance to be weighted to the second half of the year and remains confident in its full year forecasts following revisions after the recent Danone announcement.
“We are focused on continued tight operational and financial discipline and a keen eye on our customers’ needs to maximise sales opportunities.”
| A Fonterra communication || December 7, 2017 |||
Dec 7, 2017 - New Zealand's burgeoning fintech sector is coming of age with the likes of the Reserve Bank thinking more deeply about the impact changing technology will have on the broader financial system. The central bank identified the new wave of fintech as having "the potential to significantly change the structure of the financial sector" in its six-monthly financial stability report last week, singling out blockchain, crypto-currencies, application programming interfaces (APIs), big data and artificial intelligence, and digital platforms for peer-to-peer services among the most important.
Head of financial stability Bernard Hodgetts said in an interview last week that the central bank is thinking deeply about various scenarios arising from the new technology, and has identified open banking - which decentralises banking through third-party APIs - and crypto-currencies as areas where it can beef up its research.
"We've put quite a bit of thought into what sort of scenarios might lead to the core banking system suddenly facing more competition than it previously did," Hodgetts told BusinessDesk. "The core level of profitability of the system could potentially be competed away if you had some form of new entrant into the market that could take business away from the banking sector and I think the banks would be very mindful of that risk."
The Reserve Bank's decision to highlight fintech in the report follows earlier efforts by the likes of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Financial Markets Authority to support innovation in financial services, and the bank wants to work with other authorities to make sure it doesn't stifle digital innovation.
Dec 5, 2017 - Auckland Airport advises passengers travelling internationally in December 2017 and January 2018 to allow an extra 30 minutes for their journey through the terminal building. Anil Varma, Auckland Airport’s acting general manager – aeronautical operations, says, “December and January are the busiest months of the year at our international terminal. Known as the summer peak, this year we are expecting around 162 international flights every day, with international passenger numbers expected to be approximately 6% higher than last summer. We are also expecting an average of around 37,500 passengers to use the international terminal on each of our ten busiest days this summer.”
“Many of us have a standard routine when departing or arriving Auckland Airport. Just like last year, we recommend everyone allows an extra 30 minutes for travel through the international terminal over the next couple of months. This will help ensure they have a more relaxed journey. They should also give themselves extra time to travel to and from the airport, given the high level of roadworks happening around the Auckland region again this summer.”
“Auckland Airport has worked extensively with stakeholders at the airport, including both the airlines and joint border agencies, to ensure the airport can operate efficiently and effectively during the busy summer period.”
Throughout the year Auckland Airport has invested more than $1 million every working day to make improvements to help support the growth in international passengers and aircraft, including building:
· a new outbound border processing and security screening area, and a new space for departing international passengers to repack and relax after security screening;
· a new gate lounge with two airbridges on Pier B of the international terminal – Gate 17 – to accommodate a large B787 or A380 aircraft, or two smaller aircraft. This new gate lounge increases the capacity of our western Pier B by 50%;
· the first half of our exciting new international passenger lounge and its retail hub;
· new toilet facilities in the international departure area;
· a new Strata Lounge – a comfortable and relaxed space for travellers who do not belong to an airline lounge programme plus 14 airlines that choose to use the lounge to accommodate their premium passengers prior to boarding;
· an upgraded bus lounge on Pier B to further improve journeys for travellers transferring between the terminal and an aircraft parked on remote airfield stands; and
· a new fully-serviced remote airfield stand to accommodate international aircraft.
In preparation for this summer we have also:
· reconfigured the international check-in area to provide seven more service counters – an 8% increase;
· invested in 15 more mobile international self-service check-in kiosks – increasing the total number of available mobile check-in kiosks to 60;
· purchased two new Aviramps to provide a safer and better boarding or disembarking experience for passengers whose aircraft is parked on a remote airfield stand; and
· recruited extra staff, including 70 Passenger Experience Assistants, to help passengers at the airport.
We have also continued to work closely with the New Zealand Aviation Security Service, Customs New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries. The New Zealand Aviation Security Service has installed four new state of the art security screening machines in the international departure area to increase passenger processing times. Customs New Zealand has increased the eligibility for their eGates to include Chinese passport holders, and more nationalities are expected to be delivered throughout the summer period. Auckland Airport has built a new Green Lane for use by pre-selected New Zealand and Australian passport holders who are arriving in the country and have no biosecurity items to declare to the Ministry for Primary Industries.
We have also been working on a number of initiatives to improve the transport network around the inner airport roads, and working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport to help improve traffic flows and reduce travel times to and from the airport. These initiatives include:
· a new slip lane and free left-turn as part of NZTA’s upgrade of the SH20A / Verrisimo Drive intersection;
· improving access to the domestic terminal forecourt for passengers, commercial transport operators and buses;
· completion of the first stage of an upgrade of Nixon Road to provide a new route from the south-east to Auckland Airport’s Park&Ride on Verissimo Drive that avoids the need to use Tom Pearce Drive and George Bolt Memorial Drive;
· an outbound bus and T2 lane on Tom Pearce Drive;
· increasing the frequency of Auckland Transport’s Airporter 380 bus service to every 15 minutes during peak periods; and
· Auckland Airport staff located within the Auckland Transport Operation Centre on peak days to assist with the proactive management of traffic light phasings for Auckland Airport’s network.
Passengers can play their part to help keep things moving at the international terminal this summer by:
· booking a car park online, well ahead of their day of travel to maximise their choice of location and to secure a better deal;
· allowing 30 minutes extra for their journeys through the international terminal building;
· ensuring their hand luggage meets airline requirements;
· completing their international departure card before reaching Customs;
· ensuring any liquid, aerosol and gel containers in their hand luggage are not larger than 100ml, and are all placed in one re-sealable, transparent plastic bag (20cm x 20cm or smaller) and put in an easily accessible location;
· following airline advice for recommended check-in times for passengers travelling to North America, due to additional security requirements for these flights;
· asking the person who is picking them up to park in The Wait Zone, until they receive a text or phone call saying you are ready for collection; and
· checking the Auckland Airport website and App for the latest flight and travel information.
“We thank everyone in advance for their understanding and support during our busiest time of the year,” says Mr Varma.
| An Auckland Airport release || December 5, 2017 |||
DEc 5, 2017 - Inflation in New Zealand and world-wide has been persistently low since the 2008 global financial crisis, partly because of factors such as globalisation, the growth of China, the rise of the digital economy, and low inflation expectations. In a speech today to the Institute of Directors, in Auckland, Reserve Bank Governor Grant Spencer said that persistently low inflation has prompted the Reserve Bank to think about whether it needs to tweak it’s approach to monetary policy.
Mr Spencer explained a number of significant changes over the past decade have affected the outlook for inflation: · Globalisation over the past 10 years has led to outsourcing of labour-intensive production to cheaper locations, which has lowered the price consumers pay for a wide range of goods and also placed downward pressure on wages for lower-skilled jobs in advanced economies. · The scale and growth of China’s economy has also had a profound effect. China has become the largest exporting nation in the world and its expansion of capacity has restrained the prices of industrial materials and a wide range of manufactured goods. · New digital distribution channels and falling prices for ICT equipment have lowered import prices and reduced barriers to entry across a range of markets. Online competition in retailing, financial services, travel services, education and health has significantly altered the competitive landscape and put downward pressure on prices. · The domestic economy has become more integrated with global markets, resulting in greater competition in traditionally sheltered sectors. Increased international labour mobility has been an important driver. · Low inflation expectations have influenced the way businesses set prices and wages, adding further momentum to low inflation.
These global trends appear to be changing the nature of the price formation process in New Zealand.
“These factors may be reducing the leverage monetary policy has over inflation, although their persistence and impact on inflation in New Zealand remain uncertain,” Mr Spencer said.
Monetary policy has less than fully offset the weakness in imported inflation which was not expected to be so persistent and has been overlaid with uncertain commodity price movements. The on-going shock has resulted in CPI inflation running below the 2% target mid-point. The policy response has been consistent with our flexible inflation targeting framework. More recently we have been assuming greater persistence in low global inflation and this is contributing to our current flat track for future OCR levels.
“The changes in domestic pricing behaviour are causing our flexible inflation targeting approach to become more flexible. In pursuing our long term price stability objective, relatively more weight is being attached to output, employment and financial stability. However, this can only be sustained if monetary policy’s long term price stability credentials are maintained” Mr Spencer said.