Teen activist’s strong words for world leaders at Davos | Letter

Anne Taylor is impressed by 16-year-old’s Greta Thunberg’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Geneva

Jeremy Corbyn considered it wasting time at a “billionaires’ jamboree”, referring to a quarter of the cabinet flying to Davos in the middle of the Brexit impasse (The week that was, Environment, 26 January).

Greta Thunberg (Mountain mover, 26 January) clearly didn’t think it was a waste of time. Taking 32 hours to get there by train, the 16-year-old activist practised what she preaches. What could be more important than the future of our planet? As she said in her speech: “Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t.”

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Figma’s design and prototyping tool gets new enterprise collaboration features

Figma, the design and prototyping tool that aims to offer a web-based alternative to similar tools from the likes of Adobe, is launching a few new features today that will make the service easier to use to collaborate across teams in large organizations. Figma Organization, as the company calls this new feature set, is the company’s first enterprise-grade service that features the kind of controls and security tools that large companies expect. To develop and test these tools, the company partnered with companies like Rakuten, Square, Volvo and Uber, and introduced features like unified billing and audit reports for the admins and shared fonts, browsable teams and organization-wide design systems for the designers.

For designers, one of the most important new features here is probably organization-wide design systems. Figma already had tools to create design systems, of course, but this enterprise version now makes it easier for teams to share libraries and fonts with each other to ensure that the same styles are applied to products and services across a company.

Businesses can now also create as many teams as they would like and admins will get more controls over how files are shared and with whom they can be shared. That doesn’t seem like an especially interesting feature, but because many larger organizations work with customers outside of the company, it’s something that will make Figma more interesting to these large companies.

After working with Figma on these new tools, Uber, for example, moved all of its company over to the service and 90 percent of its product design work now happens on the platform. “We needed a way to get people in the right place at the right time — in the right team with the right assets,” said Jeff Jura, staff product designer who focuses on Uber’s design systems. “Figma does that.”

Other new enterprise features that matter in this context are single sign-on support, activity logs for tracking activities across users, teams, projects and files, and draft ownership to ensure that all the files that have been created in an organization can be recovered after an employee leaves the company.

Figma still offers free and professional tiers (at $12/editor/month). Unsurprisingly, the new Organization tier is a bit more expensive and will cost $45/editor/month.

MIB: The Secret to Hiring Great People

What is the best way to attract and hire the very best people in your business? That was the challenge facing restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR). While many restaurants chase after star chefs and expensive talent, Mitchell found that was not the path to acquire industry rock stars. “We get…

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The post MIB: The Secret to Hiring Great People appeared first on The Big Picture.

UK personal insolvencies hit seven-year high; US consumer confidence slumps – business live

Rolling coverage of the latest economic and financial news, as UK insolvencies hit highest level since 2011

Andrew Hunter of Capital Economics points out that US consumer confidence has dropped to an 18-month low today.

Here’s his take:

The fall in the Conference Board consumer confidence index to an 18-month low of 120.2 in January, from 126.6, appears to have been driven by a combination of the government shutdown and the earlier volatility in financial markets. With the shutdown now over and equity prices recovering, there is a good chance that confidence will rebound in February.

The decline was driven exclusively by a deterioration in the expectations index, which dropped to 87.3 from 97.9, with the present situation component little changed. The press release confirmed that the Federal government shutdown, which was still underway during the survey period, and the earlier weakness in equity markets were the main factors weighing on sentiment. With the shutdown now resolved, however, we don’t expect it to have any lasting impact on the economy. Furthermore, the S&P 500 has rebounded by more than 10% from its late-December lows. With labour market conditions still very strong, we wouldn’t be surprise to see confidence pick up again over the next couple of months. The net share of respondents saying that jobs are plentiful, rather than hard to get, remained close to an 18-year high in January. On past form, that is consistent with the unemployment rate falling even lower over the coming months.

Over in Greece, the government has made a foray back into the financial markets by auctioning a new five-year bond, reports Helena Smith in Athens.

Just in: The US government shutdown has had a chilling impact on consumer morale.

The consumer confidence index, calculated by America’s Conference Board, has slumped to just 120.2 this month — down from 126.6 in December.

US #ConsumerConfidence decreased in January, following a decline in December. The Index now stands at 120.2 (1985=100), down from 126.6 in December. #consumers https://t.co/w64HEPSrTT pic.twitter.com/uiiIy1727e

The @Conferenceboard consumer confidence index fell to 120.2 in Jan from 126.6 in Dec.
>lowest since Jul 2017 as 50% of #Trump bump to expectations has dissipated.
Present conditions held steady in Jan while expectations fall on #governmentshutdown & financial market volatility pic.twitter.com/sDUCxsFjU8

“If you shut down our government we’re going to lose confidence in you…like totally!.” US consumer confidence plummets in January, driven by significant drop in “expectations”. “Present situation” stays elevated. pic.twitter.com/0T3FIiwz8z

Read the comments by R3’s President, Stuart Frith of @SHLegal, on the Q4 2018 England & Wales personal/corporate insolvency stats from @insolvencygovuk, released today: https://t.co/5iJshcYKFs #CorporateInsolvency #PersonalInsolvency pic.twitter.com/ZF1bjwakea

Over in America, motorbike maker Harley Davidson has seen its profits wiped out by Donald Trump’s trade war.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust (the charity that runs National Debtline) is also concerned that people are being lured into IVAs.

“It is a worry to see the number of people going insolvent at its highest level for seven years and this reflects the challenging times many people continue to face.

“With this increase driven in large part by a rise in IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements) our concern is that many people in debt are being led down a route that may not be suitable for their circumstances. The prevalence of online adverts that promote ‘solutions’ to debt involving insolvency procedures may well be a contributing factor to this.

Here’s my colleague Phillip Inman on the jump in insolvencies:

A jump in personal insolvencies in the fourth quarter of 2018 sent the total number of people going bust last year in England and Wales to the highest level since 2011.

Individual insolvencies rocketed by 34.7% compared with the previous quarter to 34,108, taking the total number for the year up by just over 16% to 115,299, according to figures from the Insolvency Service.

Related: UK personal insolvencies hit seven-year high

Here’s another chart from the Insolvency Service, which show how personal insolvencies – as a share of the population – has been rising since 2015.

The individual insolvency rate is related to levels of household debt, and economic growth. The current individual insolvency rate remains elevated compared with rates of less than 10 per 10,000 adults before 2004.

In the early-to-mid-2000s, there was a large expansion of credit which coincided with a large increase in the individual insolvency rate.

A quick clarification. The number of personal insolvencies in the UK jumped to 115,299 people last year – not 115,229 as mentioned earlier [there was a small typo in the announcement, which I didn’t spot…]

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, says Brexit uncertainty is one factors pushing companies into financial difficulties:

“These latest figures show the huge strain that small businesses are currently facing with rising employment costs, unfair business rates as well as significant uncertainty as the UK exits the European Union.

“Both the total number of new company insolvencies as well as underlying total insolvencies have reached their highest levels since 2014, which illustrates the great turbulence that small firms are now up against.

Heads-up. Chancellor Philip Hammond is planning to update us on the nation’s finances on Wednesday 13th March.

Today @philiphammondUK announced the date of the #SpringStatement, which will take place on the 13th of March. pic.twitter.com/aVGA1pn5yr

TUC official Alex Collinson fears that Britain is sinking into a debt crisis – and wants the government to act:

In December, it was revealed that household debt has hit a record high.

Today’s insolvency stats show that, in 2018, the number of individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) has also hit a record high.

The government needs to get a grip on this growing debt crisis. pic.twitter.com/ZG4MaUHUbM

(on a bland pedantic note, I mislabelled the y-axis in the first 2 charts as “number of individual insolvencies in England&Wales”. It should say “number of individual voluntary arrangements in England&Wales”, but I think that’s obvious from the rest of the chart, but yeh)

Here’s Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association on today’s corporate insolvency stats:

Company insolvencies in construction in Great Britain during 2018 were 13.0% higher than in 2017, 16.9% higher than in 2016 & 19.8% higher than in 2015. The post-financial crisis low point of construction insolvencies was 2015 Q4.#ukconstruction https://t.co/zgFcDWSRrX pic.twitter.com/KL3SvFiVWr

Today’s insolvency figures cover three types of formal insolvency procedures, which people enter when they can’t service their debts.

Huge increase in personal insolvencies in Q3

Driven by IVAs pic.twitter.com/Ln6PI6Nq47

The 16% jump in personal insolvencies in 2018 shows that more Britons are in financial distress.

Stuart Frith, President of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, explains:

Personal insolvency numbers have been rising steadily every year since 2015, and 2018 was no exception. As banks and other lenders have tightened their credit standards in response to the Bank of England’s concerns around consumer over-indebtedness, many people have run out of road.

In previous years, the ‘helicopter money’ provided by PPI refunds, along with generally less stringent lending requirements, helped to paper over the cracks that opened up as a result of a decade of persistently stagnant wage increases, but these avenues look to be closing themselves off. People are having to spend more of their income on housing and transportation, leaving less left over for savings and making budgets more vulnerable to shocks.

“Savings levels are painfully thin, exposing people to financial upsets. As an illustration of this, recent research from R3 and ComRes found that one in five British adults (20%) would find it somewhat difficult, very difficult or impossible to immediately pay an unexpected bill for an amount as little as £20, without assistance from an external source.

Karen Hendy, partner at City law firm RPC, fears more retailers will fall into insolvency in 2019.

“The retail landscape could get worse before it gets better. A poorly handled Brexit may see even more high-profile casualties in the sector.

Unfortunately, there seems to be very little good news on the horizon for retailers. The National Minimum Wage will rise another 4.9% in April, and Brexit is a drag on consumer confidence.”

Building companies and retailers suffered the brunt of the insolvencies across the UK last year, as this chart shows:

The Insolvency Services adds:

The number of companies hitting financial trouble have also risen.

Corporate insolvencies jumped by 9.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 4,725 companies.

“The recent dip in consumer confidence is beginning to impact spending behaviour and this is having an effect across the economy. Retailers have been particularly badly affected and many are still saddled by historic rental agreements, which are undermining their profitability. Other sectors of the economy are also affected, among them the construction and hospitality & leisure industries.

“Despite the low rate of unemployment, the current climate of Brexit uncertainty and political instability, is unsettling for consumers, and this is creating exceptionally challenging trading conditions for many businesses.

The number of UK personal insolvencies surged in the last three months.

The Insolvency Service reports there were 34,108 individual insolvencies in the fourth quarter of 2018, an increase of 34.8% on Q4.

Boom! The number of UK individuals falling into insolvency has hit a seven-year high.

In total, 115,299 people became insolvent after failing to repay their debts in 2018, up 16% year on year. That’s the third annual increase in a row and the highest since 2011 (after the great recession).

Research we’ve conducted reveals major misperceptions around the consequences of personal insolvency. Nearly three in ten people don’t realise that entering personal insolvency could affect their access to rental accommodation, over a quarter (26%) of people don’t know it may affect their eligibility for a bank account, and nearly one in five (19%) Brits think it wouldn’t influence their ability to access a mortgage.

“The survey also shows people don’t realise the impact on their access to other everyday services, for example three in five (60%) Brits believe there would be no issues in accessing utility services such as electricity, gas, or TV and broadband services.

In the City, the FTSE 100 has jumped by almost 80 points this morning to 6825, recovering Monday’s losses.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, says:

The latest machinations in the House of Commons over Brexit will take place tonight. With sterling still volatile against this backdrop, the FTSE 100 was on the march, recovering some of the losses seen in recent days to trade more than 1% higher early on.

“The index is being powered by heavyweight tobacco stocks British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands which have relatively little exposure to the UK’s looming exit from the EU.

The pound could hit the highest level in 6 months if the Cooper plan passes in today’s Brexit vote https://t.co/1S35wPk2DZ pic.twitter.com/Ym1verpfs6

Investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown has suffered from the recent market volatility, and anxiety over Brexit.

“The diversified nature of Hargreaves Lansdown has enabled us to continue growing despite a period of geopolitical uncertainty, market volatility and weak investor confidence.

Brexit is on the horizon, and until certainty is reached, it will continue to impact markets and consumer confidence. Financial decision making becomes trickier and clients can become reluctant to invest more in volatile markets and prefer to sit on the side-lines.

Perhaps Royal Mail should take some delivery lessons from Domino’s.

The fast food company had its busiest week ever in the run-up to Christmas, shifting a record-breaking 535,000 pizza (!) on Friday 21st December alone.

“I’m pleased with the continued strong performance in the UK and Ireland, where we opened a further 59 stores.

Many families decided to kick off the festive season with a Domino’s, with the Friday before Christmas breaking all records as we sold more than 535,000 pizzas – equivalent to 12 every second.

Related: Domino’s sells more than 500,000 pizzas in record UK trading day

Nicholas Hyett, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says Royal Mail’s letters business is contracting at a worrying rate:

“The continuing collapse in letter volumes is the big news in these numbers. Royal Mail’s gone out of its way to say that’s down to wider uncertainty, and the introduction of new privacy laws under GDPR, rather an uptick in companies using email rather than paper.

Whatever the cause, we suspect those mailings are gone for good.

Management don’t appear to have a coherent plan to deal with an ever rising cost base at a time when growth prospects remain cloudy.

Ouch. Shares in Royal Mail have hit a record low after it delivered more bad news to shareholders.

“Due to our letters performance to date, we expect addressed letter volume declines, excluding elections, to be in the range of 7-8% for 2018-19.

While the rate of e-substitution remains in line with our expectations, business uncertainty is impacting letter volumes.

When they’re nervous, investors have a habit of piling into gold.

So with geopolitical anxiety rising, bullion prices have just hit their highest level in seven months.

The criminal charges launched against Huawei could scupper this week’s US-China trade talks, City analysts reckon.

Jasper Lawler of London Capital Group says:

Sentiment was already on shaky ground this week over concerns of global growth. The move by the US justice department accusing Huawei with bank fraud and conspiring to steal trade secrets from US firm T mobile Inc is not helping.

The timing of the move is important. With trade due to start tomorrow, this is a fairly hostile message that the US is sending out. The overriding fear is that this move will negatively impact trade talks, making a deal even less likely.

The lack of progress in the US-China trade talks and the potential extradition of Huawei’s CFO from Canada to the US on criminal charges highlight a complex geopolitical landscape.

At the same time, rumours that President Trump will not hesitate shutting down the US government again in February as he tries to get funding for his wall with Mexico create further challenges for the US economy, keeping equity traders on the side-lines.

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

Related: Huawei: China calls US charges ‘immoral’ as markets slide

The case rests on claims @Huawei stole a robot testing device called Tappy from @TMobile (this has already been part of a settled civil case) pic.twitter.com/vYZIEBDYjL

“These cases make clear that, as a country, we must consider carefully the risk that companies like Huawei pose if we allow them into our telecommunications infrastructure. The FBI does not—and will not—tolerate businesses that violate our laws, obstruct our justice, and jeopardize our national security.”

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