The forgotten shipping pallet is staging a pandemic-era rally #SootinClaimon.Com

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The forgotten shipping pallet is staging a pandemic-era rally

Biz insightsApr 12. 2021An employee uses a forklift truck to move a stack of heat treated wooden pallets at Shaw Pallet in Huddersfield, England, on Aug. 25, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe.An employee uses a forklift truck to move a stack of heat treated wooden pallets at Shaw Pallet in Huddersfield, England, on Aug. 25, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Brendan Murray

After carrying the weight of the global economy since World War II with little fanfare, the lowly shipping pallet is finally commanding some respect.

Demand for the platforms used to haul nearly every consumer good or industrial ingredient is soaring amid a surge in e-commerce, forcing retailers and manufacturers to expand warehouses or pile inventories higher. At the same time, two keys to production — cheap lumber and labor — are scarce, and even nail costs are rising.

The result: Pallet prices have hit record highs, according to a U.S. Labor Department index, and European gauges show big jumps from the U.K. to Germany. The market may stay hot through the peak construction season in the springtime and as Covid-19 vaccines help revive restaurants and event venues — adding to inflationary pressures rippling across supply chains.

“Supply is just barely keeping up with demand,” said Howe Wallace, chairman and CEO of PalletOne Inc., a Bartow, Florida-based producer with facilities across the Southeast. “It’s a pretty dicey situation.”

At Virginia Tech’s Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, the nation’s foremost pallet laboratory, “the companies we work with, every single one of them, said they’ve had their best year,” said Associate Professor Laszlo Horvath, the center’s director.

Pallets serve as the base of a so-called unit load, a standard way to ship products so they’re easy to move with forklifts and jacks. They are generally bought or leased by product makers and get baked into transport packaging costs. When a retailer or other end user is finished with pallets, recycling companies collect, repair and resell them. Some industries like bottling companies manage their own pallet pools.

There are roughly 5 billion pallets in use worldwide, and an estimated 2 billion in the U.S. alone — enough to go two-thirds of the way to the Moon if stacked on top of each other. About 90% are wooden and the rest are made of plastic, metal or cardboard. Each year, some 513 million new wood ones are built in the U.S. and another 326 million are repaired and put back in circulation, according to Horvath.

Depending on the region, the usual price tag of $9 to $12 per wooden pallet may approach $15 this year.

“New pallets, used pallets, rental pallets — they’re all raising their prices,” said Chaille Brindley, editor and publisher of Pallet Enterprise magazine and Pallet Profile, a market report.

Pallets are made with a lower grade of hardwood and softwood than the timber used for construction and furniture. In the mid-Atlantic region, the price of pallet-grade hardwood rose to $635 per 1,000 board feet in March from $530 a year earlier, and a Southern California softwood more than doubled, to $520. Meanwhile, nail prices gained between November and March along with a 36% jump in the cost of wire rod, Brindley said.

Adding to the squeeze is a dearth of workers willing to do the tough job of constructing pallets. “The market’s right for a second shift, but there are no people to add a second shift,” Wallace said.

Such strains would seem to provide an opening for plastic pallets, which are lighter, built to last longer, easier to sanitize, and pose fewer hazards like splinters and protruding nails. The downside to plastic pallets: They’re about three times more expensive, meaning a shift from wood to plastic turns what most companies view as throw-away packaging into pricey assets that need to be managed.

Before the pandemic, the overall pallet market was growing at about 5% to 7% annually.

“After the pandemic we believe that’s even higher,” said Jeff Pepperworth, CEO of Orlando, Florida-based iGPS Logistics, the U.S.’s largest plastic-pallet pooler. “We are seeing, especially in the plastic-pallet space, there’s more demand than there is supply.”

Pepperworth said the shift to robotics and artificial intelligence in warehouses and distribution centers favors pallets with more consistent dimensions and tracking technology — top selling points of plastic.

“In the past, automation looked at the pallet as the dumbest asset in the process,” he said. “In the future, the pallet is going to be the smartest asset in the process.”

The wood-pallet lobby has heard such arguments before about their venerable product. “Companies will always look to build a better mousetrap,” said Brent McClendon, president and CEO of the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Wooden Pallet & Container Association. “They keep coming back to wood.”

With lumber prices so high, the logistics world is intrigued by a pilot program this year using plastic pallets by Costco Wholesale Corp., the Issaquah, Washington-based chain of warehouse stores where pallets are fixtures on the sales floor. In an email reply to questions about the trial run, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said “we wouldn’t have any comments.”

The leasing company working with Costco is CHEP, a unit of Sydney-based Brambles Ltd. that traces its history back to Australia’s role in the Second World War.

Brambles CEO Graham Chipchase indicated on a conference call in February that CHEP — known for its pool of bright-blue wooden pallets — is proceeding cautiously into the plastic variety so it doesn’t weaken the wood business.

“Because plastic pallets are so much more expensive than wooden ones, we feel that if this is a solution for Costco, we don’t think it’s likely to spread across the whole system quickly because of the price premium,” Chipchase said.

Marshall White, a Virginia Tech professor emeritus and a developer of pallet-design software, said it’s reasonable to expect plastic could reach 10% of the market over the long term, from about 5% to 6% now.

“Wood pallets will continue to dominate, until the time that we find the physics to dematerialize toilet paper at Procter & Gamble and rematerialize it in my house with some magic device,” he said.

Adopting ‘circular economy’ will make Thai energy firms more sustainable: PwC #SootinClaimon.Com

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Adopting ‘circular economy’ will make Thai energy firms more sustainable: PwC

Biz insightsApr 10. 2021Amornrat PearmpoonvatanasukAmornrat Pearmpoonvatanasuk

By The Nation (sponsored news)

Thai energy firms should transition to a “circular economy” to address the adverse impact of non-renewable resources and join the global race to end emissions, audit company PwC Thailand said recently.

Companies should also start trading in carbon credits, which would generate millions of baht in income yearly, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic is cutting down carbon emissions and diminishing demand for fossil fuels.

Amornrat Pearmpoonvatanasuk, energy leader and assurance partner for PwC Thailand, said energy firms across the world, including those in Thailand, are facing mounting challenges when it comes to addressing climate change in the wake of Covid-19.

The pandemic has brought attention to the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, resulting in a change in product demand, market characteristics and business models. A growing list of governments and corporations have committed to tackling climate change through achieving net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.

“A global movement to achieve a net-zero future by replacing fossil fuels – the major contributors to global warming such as oil, natural gas and coal – with renewable energy sources will lead to shrinking demand of these markets. Business leaders will increasingly transition out of traditional business models to a circular economy prioritising renewables and low-carbon energy sources that have less impact on the environment.

“Against this backdrop, we expect more oil giants and other energy businesses to profoundly shift the way they do business to boost competitiveness and efficiency, including offsetting the risk from a fall of non-renewables demand globally,” Amornrat said.

Recently major economies such as China, the US, Japan and South Korea set targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The European Commission also unveiled the European Green Deal, a roadmap for Europe to become a climate-neutral continent by mid-century.

More than 400 leading organisations, including PwC, have signed the United Nations Global Impact’s “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” commitment to limit the rise in average global temperature to 1.5°C and reduce net-zero global emissions by 2050.

Circular economy in energy, utilities and resources industry

Growing concerns over climate change will likely accelerate a transition to a circular-economy model aimed at recycling renewables to ensure maximum benefits and release zero or the least-possible waste across all industries, Amonrat said.

This shift will transform business models by using integrated technology to add value to an organisation’s supply chain, from production systems and raw material management to applying renewable energy and resources principles to expand new markets such as producing green hydrogen from waste.

Companies in the energy sector have a crucial role in the development of a circular economy, according to PwC’s “Taking on Tomorrow: The Rise of Circularity in Energy, Utilities and Resources” report. There are six steps companies can take to build a more sustainable future, namely:

• Mapping out circular opportunities

• Being clear about strategy and vision

• Planning your circular transformation route

• Developing circular collaborations and frameworks

• Measuring, reviewing and communicating progress

• Making moves before competitors, customers and regulators do.

Thailand’s commitment to the Paris Agreement to reduce GHG emissions by 20 to 25 per cent by 2030 in the area of energy, transport, industrial processes and waste management has prompted Thai energy, utilities and resources companies to shift their business models towards clean energy to ensure their financial performance is sustainable, Amornrat said.

Such efforts also help win trust from clients, communities, investors and stakeholders who increasingly pay more attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, she continued.

Another option for the sector to reduce GHG emissions is through trading carbon credits. This tool is increasingly becoming popular overseas, where regulatory allowances for emissions can be bought or sold, she said. A few Thai energy companies generated up to Bt10 million per year from selling carbon credits to other companies, Amornrat added.

Combining this approach with the transition toward renewable energy would add value to business operations and create new revenue streams.

“Energy businesses should revisit their business and cost structures in the aftermath of Covid-19.

“This includes rethinking how to make the most of available natural resources and using this crisis as an opportunity to do more socially responsible business in order to build long-term sustainability and competitiveness,” she said.

U.S. jobless claims jump, showing choppy labor-market recovery #SootinClaimon.Com

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U.S. jobless claims jump, showing choppy labor-market recovery

Biz insightsApr 09. 2021A worker sands wood components for a pool table in Jeffersonville, Ind.. on March 10, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Luke SharrettA worker sands wood components for a pool table in Jeffersonville, Ind.. on March 10, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Luke Sharrett

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Payne Lubbers, Olivia Rockeman

Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose for a second week, underscoring the uneven nature of the labor market recovery.

Initial claims in regular state programs increased by 16,000 to 744,000 in the week ended April 3, Labor Department data showed Thursday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey estimated 680,000 claims. The prior week’s data was revised up to 728,000. California and New York led states with the biggest increases in unadjusted claims.

The increase in claims shows the labor market still has a long way to go to recover the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic. Still, companies are poised to ramp up hiring in the coming months as vaccinations accelerate and business restrictions ease.

Claims data have been volatile during the pandemic amid backlogs, fraud and new programs.

Continuing claims for ongoing state benefits fell to a one-year low of 3.73 million in the week ended March 27. Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed and gig workers totaled 151,752 last week, a decrease from the prior week.

On an adjusted basis, initial claims rose by almost 39,000 in California and increased by more than 15,700 in New York. About half of all states and U.S. territories posted declines last week. Ohio and Alabama led states with the biggest decreases.

IMF boosts global growth forecast, warns of diverging rebound #SootinClaimon.Com

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IMF boosts global growth forecast, warns of diverging rebound

Biz insightsApr 07. 2021

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Eric Martin

The International Monetary Fund upgraded its global economic growth forecast for the second time in three months, while warning about widening inequality and a divergence between advanced and lesser-developed economies.

The global economy will expand 6% this year, up from the 5.5% pace estimated in January, the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook published on Tuesday. That would be the most in four decades of data, coming after a 3.3% contraction last year that was the worst peacetime decline since the Great Depression.

The fund, which with the World Bank is holding its spring meetings virtually this week, underscored that policy makers should scale back government support “gradually,” to avoid “fiscal cliffs.” Central bankers should also give “clear forward guidance” on monetary policy to minimize the danger of disruptive capital flows.

The IMF reiterated its call for wealthy nations to help poorer ones combat Covid-19, and underlined the need to prioritize health-care spending more broadly to defeat the pandemic.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed last month will help boost U.S. gross domestic product to above its pre-pandemic level this year and will have sizable positive spillovers for trading partners.

For 2022, the fund saw global growth at 4.4%, higher than the 4.2% previously projected.

Still, many advanced economies will not return to their pre-pandemic output levels until 2022, the IMF said, and emerging-market and developing economies may take until 2023 to recover those levels. The world economy in 2024 will be about 3% smaller than anticipated before the Covid-19 outbreak, the IMF said last week.

“The outlook presents daunting challenges related to divergences in the speed of recovery both across and within countries and the potential for persistent economic damage from the crisis,” IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said in the report.

Much of the focus of this week’s meetings will be on the IMF’s proposed $650 billion issuance of reserve assets known as special drawing rights, which aims to boost global liquidity and help emerging and low-income nations deal with mounting debt and covid-19 health-care costs.

The response to last year’s crisis by policy makers prevented a collapse that would have been at least three times worse, and the medium-term losses for the global economy are expected to be smaller than the global financial crisis a decade ago, the IMF said Tuesday.

But low-income countries and emerging markets are seen suffering more this time around — a contrast to 2009, when advanced economies were hit harder.

Related: IMF Says Fed Surprises Can Trigger Emerging-Market Outflows

The divergent recovery paths are likely to widen the global gap in living standards, the IMF said. The fund estimated per-capita income losses over the 2020-22 period in emerging and developing markets excluding China at the equivalent of 20% of the per-capita GDP figures for 2019. That’s much worse than the 11% the IMF sees in advanced economies.

Among other findings:

– About 95 million people are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020.

– The number of undernourished people is calculated to have grown by 80 million.

Globally, economies dependent on tourism face a particularly difficult recovery outlook given the slow pace of normalization of cross-border travel expected, the fund noted.

But in advanced economies, pent-up demand will drive growth based on savings from 2020, as vulnerable people get vaccinated and contact-intensive industries resume, the IMF said.

Among the forecasts released Tuesday:

– Advanced economies will expand 5.1% this year, compared with the 4.3% previously seen.

– Emerging market and developing economies will grow 6.7%, up from 6.3%.

– The U.S. is seen at 6.4%, up from 5.1% in January. The fund previously calculated the stimulus enacted in March will boost U.S. output by a cumulative 5% to 6% over three years.

– The euro area will expand 4.4%, up from the 4.2% previously seen.

– Japan will grow 3.3%, compared with 3.1%.

– China is seen expanding 8.4%, up from 8.1%.

– India will grow 12.5%, up from 11.5%.

The IMF flagged the risk that, if virus mutations outpace the roll-out of vaccines, Covid-19 could become an endemic disease with an unknown severity.

Meantime, inflation data globally could turn volatile in the coming months, given record-low commodity prices a year ago, but the trend should prove short-lived, the IMF said. The muted outlook reflects a weak labor market, high unemployment and little worker bargaining power.

Global trade volume is expected to accelerate 8.4% this year on a rebound in goods purchases, up from the 8.1% gain seen in January.

Governments transformed under pressure from Covid-19 – that transformation will shape our future #SootinClaimon.Com

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Governments transformed under pressure from Covid-19 – that transformation will shape our future

Biz insightsMar 16. 2021

By Mike Canning, William D Eggers, Beth McGrath
Special to The Nation

The year 2020 was tumultuous, and government stood front and centre in not only confronting the biggest public health challenge in a century, but also dealing with major economic and social disruption.

New programmes were rolled out seemingly overnight, and on a massive scale. Government is usually associated with incremental change, but 2020 was a year of discontinuity. The shifts we saw in government operations reflect the dramatic changes happening in the world at large.

The Deloitte Centre for Government Insights’ “Government Trends 2021” captures nine of the most transformative trends in government today.

1. Accelerated digital government

The pandemic changed digital from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” for governments. To meet the surge in service demand while operating virtually, governments have accelerated their digital journey along three major dimensions: scaling digital infrastructure, creating a more digitally savvy workforce, and investing in citizen connectivity.

2. Seamless service delivery

Government agencies are increasingly providing personalised, frictionless, and proactive services to citizens. There are several avenues that governments are taking to achieve this vision of seamless service delivery: committing to fully digital services, designing proactive services around life events, and building infrastructure to support such seamless services. The goal: have government services approach the ease of the best online experiences.

3. Location liberation

Covid-19 caused organisations to change how they accomplished their missions. From remote work to telemedicine and online schools, the pandemic brought the future of government work into the present. This trend follows the emergence of adaptive workplaces, including approaches for managing a distributed workforce and delivering high-quality citizen services virtually.

4. Fluid data dynamics

Data is assuming an elevated level of importance within and outside government. Public agencies are developing novel approaches to maximise the value of the data they hold, including appropriately sharing that data. Across the globe, the trend toward fluid, dynamic data is changing how data is being used and shared by government and its partners in academia, nonprofits, and the private sector.

5. Government as a cognitive system

The best governments are constantly learning, evolving, and making decisions – just like people do. When government understands itself as a “cognitive system”, it can take steps to increase how quickly it learns. This entails using data in new ways to gain insights from the past and present, and to make reliable projections about the future. This augmented learning and decision-making capability can create immense public value. Governments can design programmes with an intelligence architecture in mind. The hindsight of past performance, coupled with real-time data in the present, can lead to optimal decisions for the future.

6. Agile government

The pandemic has highlighted the need for a fast, flexible, and mission-centric government, and many governments around the world have embraced the opportunity and shown they are up for the challenge. Governments had to make timely decisions – they needed to move fast. This agile imperative can be seen in many areas, including policymaking, regulation, procurement, and the workforce.

7. Government’s broader role in cyber

A cyber hack that would once damage a single organisation can now spread to threaten an organisation’s partners, clients, or even an entire industry or a sector. Governments want to tap into a growing information ecosystem, but what about the risks? Reliable cybersecurity requires breaking down internal silos, recrafting external relationships, and making sure the public workforce comprises the best cyber talent.

8. Inclusive and equality-centred government

As inclusion and equality issues come to the forefront, governments are focusing more on the underlying causes of systemic imbalances and questioning the fundamentals of how policies are developed, implemented, and assessed. Some of the global approaches being embraced include inclusive and equality-centred design, equitable access to public goods, data sovereignty and equity, and cocreation and citizen engagement.

9. Strengthening public trust in government

In many parts of the world, trust in government skyrocketed in 2020. In some countries, however, trust in government was close to an all-time low. Such trust – and increasingly social trust or social capital – is crucial to managing challenging economic and public health issues. Governments are working toward making trust a core component, tackling information manipulation, weaving in greater transparency, and building trust in government’s digital systems, services, and data initiatives.

Understanding these trends is the first step in navigating the journey ahead.

William D Eggers is the executive director of Deloitte’s Centre for Government trends.

Mike Canning, principal at Deloitte Consulting, leads Deloitte’s Government & Public Services Industry.

Beth McGrath is a managing director at Deloitte Consulting and the global leader for its Government and Public Services Industry.

Warren Buffett becomes sixth member of $100 billion club #SootinClaimon.Com

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Warren Buffett becomes sixth member of $100 billion club

Biz insightsMar 12. 2021Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., speaks at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., speaks at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Simon Hunt, Katherine Chiglinsky, Devon Pendleton

Warren Buffett has been a fixture at the top of the world’s wealth rankings for decades, but in recent years he’s slipped down the list as tech fortunes soared and his hot hand cooled.

Now, at 90, his net worth has blown past $100 billion.

The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman’s wealth jumped on Wednesday to $100.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That makes Buffett the sixth member of the $100 billion club, a group including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and his friend Bill Gates.

The clan’s combined fortunes have grown rapidly, fueled by government stimulus, central-bank policy and the surging equity market. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill cleared its final congressional hurdle as the House voted to approve the legislation, adding to the $3 trillion or so in stimulus Washington has already disbursed in the past year.

Berkshire, the source of virtually all of Buffett’s wealth, has had a fast start to 2021. The firm’s A shares are up 15% this year, outpacing the 3.8% gain of the S&P 500 Index. That’s been helped by Buffett’s recent push to spend record amounts buying back Berkshire’s own stock, a notable shift for an investor who has preferred to use the $138 billion cash pile to buy other businesses or common shares.

Buffett’s been struggling in recent years to find sizable deals to spark Berkshire’s growth, partially due to the sheer size of the conglomerate. That’s caused the shares to underperform the S&P 500 over the past five years. But in 2020, Buffett spent a record $24.7 billion on buybacks and filings indicate he’s already bought at least $4.2 billion worth of stock through mid-February.

“His warming up to share buyback was clearly welcomed by investors,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Palazola, who also noted last year’s fears of the pandemic’s initial impact on the group were overdone. “The strength of Berkshire’s equity portfolio, specifically Apple, was a large contributor to book value,” he said.

Surpassing $100 billion is all the more notable considering how much the Omaha billionaire has given away. A co-founder of the Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage philanthropy, Buffett has donated more than $37 billion in Berkshire stock since 2006. Without those gifts, which have cut his holdings of Berkshire Class A shares nearly in half, he’d be worth more than $192 billion.

The staggering amounts accumulated by the ultra-wealthy — $1.8 trillion by the world’s 500 richest in 2020 alone — highlights the K-shaped recovery that’s taking place as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic. While millions of disproportionately poor, working-class and minority people remain unemployed, the rich have seen incomes and net worth levels jump thanks to a buoyant stock market and rising home prices.

Meanwhile, more than 8 million Americans — including many children — fell into poverty in the second half of last year, according to an analysis by University of Chicago economist Bruce Meyer, University of Notre Dame’s James Sullivan and Zhejiang University’s Jeehoon Han.

Buffett added $1.9 billion to his fortune on Wednesday as Berkshire Class A shares hit a record high, helping lead a second day of gains for the S&P 500.

Unlock trapped millions in your organisation #SootinClaimon.Com

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Unlock trapped millions in your organisation

Biz insightsMar 10. 2021Noratip DhanasarnsilpNoratip Dhanasarnsilp

By Noratip Dhanasarnsilp
Special to The Nation

Businesses across the country are hitting a snag in their push for digital transformation under enterprise resource planning (ERP).

“We have already implemented ERP and we have data, but we don’t know how to use it.” This is the message being heard over and over in Deloitte’s consulting sessions with clients.

In 2021, businesses in Thailand are fully aware they need to transform digitally. Around 40 per cent have completed their transformation to some degree, 50 per cent are in progress and 10 per cent are planning their transformation. One benefit of digital transformation is the wealth of data being collected, categorised and stored. Information such as customer profiles, customer interaction with the business’s services, internal processes and suppliers can be very useful for gaining competitive advantage, improving our processes and reducing operating costs. However, data are useless if they are not properly analysed – a problem that could be trapping value worth millions within transaction systems.

Businesses might be surprised to learn that the ability to unlock these trapped millions lies within your risk management and internal audit teams. Although both of these departments may have a good understanding of business processes and what can go wrong, their potential is often limited by a lack of digital data and/or tools to handle that data. Deloitte’s Risk Advisory team has heard this complaint many times over the past two years and our response is: “Empower your second and third line of defence.” The approach to empowerment consists of the following two stages:

1. Automate to reduce time spent on routine work

Research shows that we spend 67 per cent of working hours with computers but only 26 per cent applying our expertise. Risk management and internal audit teams (RM & IA) spend significant amounts of time requesting, collecting and preparing data, leaving them with only a small window to do their work. We suggest organisations adopt Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help automate manual, recurring and resource-intensive tasks that RM & IA teams are doing. A client who adopted RPA for internal controls has reduced time spent on routine tasks from 900 working days to 15 working days. The tasks are done 60,000 per cent faster, ensuring compliance while also boosting the morale of staff since they can now focus on challenging tasks and can also leave work on time. With the cost of RPA technology decreasing each year, its affordability now means businesses can recoup the investment within months.

2. Increase data processing capability with analytics

Current good practice for data sampling is to randomly select 10 per cent of the target population – a method that has not changed for decades. However, the 10 per cent practice in the digital age poses two major challenges to risk assurance. The first is the low possibility of detecting risk and abnormal transactions. The second is inability to handle 10 per cent of transactions, especially for businesses that operate digitally such as e-commerce. For example, in 2020 food delivery applications saw an estimated 68 million transactions – which is impossible for RM & IA teams to effectively monitor. With this scenario, we need tools to increase analytic capability. Deloitte foresaw this problem and has for some time been advising clients to use data analytic and visualisation.

A fast-rising technology in this field is Process Mining, which helps users take in all data generated throughout a given business process. At this point, you may be asking how Process Mining differs from other Business Intelligence (BI) tools. The significant advantage of Process Mining is its ability to create maps of your processes based on three key data fields – transaction ID, activity and activity’s time-stamp. With this tool, the risk management and internal audit teams can see how business processes operate from end to end, covering 100 per cent of transactions with limited resources.

This full oversight of business processes allows RM & IA teams to see exactly which part of the operation is causing delays, identifying bottlenecks and where processes deviate from established standards. Using the resulting experience in business processes, good practice and data, teams can provide insights into business operations, pinpointing risks and suggesting improvements that unlock business opportunities worth millions trapped within your organisation.

In conclusion, as businesses undergo digital transformation and collect large pools of data, they must focus on maximising analysis and use of digital data. This applies to every business unit, including supporting functions such as risk management and internal auditing. RM & IA teams must adopt these digital assets and become internal consultants for the business – providing insights, improvements and assurance to the organisation. Doing so will give RM & IA a seat at the decision-making table, freeing millions in trapped revenue and contributing to the next wave of business growth.

Noratip Dhanasarnsilp is senior manager for Risk Advisory Services at Deloitte Thailand.

Mergers and acquisitions post-Covid: redefining M&A strategies to create value #SootinClaimon.Com

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Mergers and acquisitions post-Covid: redefining M&A strategies to create value

Biz insightsFeb 11. 2021

By Benchamaporn Piyakulvorawat
Special to Nation Thailand

Many sectors will need to reinvent themselves in order to thrive, and M&A activities will have a strong influence in shaping the “next normal” environment and creating new business narratives for many companies.

Deloitte Southeast Asia was recently honoured to welcome Professor Aswath Damodaran, a professor of finance at the Stern School of Business, NYU, and the author of several textbooks on valuation, corporate finance and investment management, to be our distinguished guest speaker on the topic “Crisis as a crucible: a Jedi guide to investment serenity”. Professor Damodaran shared his views on ways to approach business valuations in this time of innovation and uncertainty. The webinar was valuable and could inspire business leaders and companies planning mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to rethink and design their strategies in the new world post-Covid-19.

Those who have been following Professor Damodaran’s valuation practices would be familiar with his statement about “the narrative as valuation”, which cites that “narrative without numbers is storytelling and numbers without stories to back them up are just financial modelling”. In the webinar, Professor Damodaran described a 5-step valuation, starting from developing the narrative for the business to be valued, testing the narrative to see if it is possible, plausible and probable, converting the narrative to value drivers, connecting the value drivers to valuation, and keeping the feedback loop to improve and modify the narrative.

There are implications for both business leaders and investors. For businesses to attract capital, they need to develop a rational narrative about their business, convey the narrative to investors effectively, and act consistently. Businesses also need to identify their value drivers and measure how the narrative is unfolding and changing in response to unforeseen events. Investors need to find companies that have convincing narratives, convert these narratives into value to justify the investment value. They must also be open to changes in narratives and numbers, especially during times of uncertainties and new phenomena.

The concept of narrative and numbers becomes clearer during current conditions as crises can affect a company’s “story”, favourably or unfavourably, and consequently expectations of its business value. During the time of a typical crisis, resilient business leaders have to:

• Respond – deal with the present situation and manage continuity;

• Recover – learn and emerge stronger, and

• Thrive – prepare for and shape the “next normal”.

The post-Covid world will unleash structural and systematic changes and it is expected that recovery will be highly asymmetric across regions and sectors. Many sectors will need to reinvent themselves in order to thrive and M&A activities will have a strong influence in shaping the “next normal” environment and creating new business stories for many companies.

In a Deloitte publication on M&A amid Covid-19, it is anticipated that a combination of defensive and offensive M&A strategies will emerge as companies strive to safeguard core markets, accelerate transformation and position themselves to capture market leadership. Redefining M&A post-Covid in terms of rebound scenarios and strategic choices will bring clarity of purpose while confronting uncertainties. Inorganic growth strategies such as partnerships with peers, co-investments with private equity, investment in disruptive technologies, or cross-sector alliances could be alternative strategies beyond traditional M&A in a post-Covid world.

Companies in disadvantaged sectors such as aviation, hospitality and real estate may turn to M&A to safeguard their future. The defensive M&A strategies include:

• M&A to salvage value: companies that have been severely impacted and are in a financially vulnerable position will need to take decisive measures to secure their survival. Some will pursue M&A activities such as portfolio optimisation and divestment of non-core assets to increase capital efficiency, or wind down underperforming businesses or loss-making divisions to preserve the viable core business. Rapid turnaround strategies and speed of execution are crucial to maximise value.

• M&A to safeguard markets and maintain competitive parity: companies where the impact has been less severe, but remain in a financially vulnerable position, could use M&A to safeguard their markets and core businesses, and maintain parity with their competitors. Companies that have capital constraints should consider alliances and pursue co-investment opportunities to reduce risk and capital outlay.

Companies in sectors that are more resilient such as digital health, remote working technologies, enterprise security and media streaming may pursue acquisitions to capture their market leadership. The offensive M&A strategies include:

• M&A to transform the business and safeguard the future: companies that have strong balance sheets but expect a significant degree of structural disruption to their sector could use M&A to safeguard their customer bases and supply chains and accelerate transformation of their business models. They may pursue opportunistic acquisitions to prepare for “next normal” conditions or disruptive acquisitions to accelerate the adoption of digital technology in their businesses, and explore acquisition opportunities by actively scanning the market for underperforming peers and high-growth start-ups that are struggling under funding constraints.

• M&A to change the game: companies that are resilient could use M&A to capture market leadership. The next normal is likely to accelerate sector convergence from new customer behaviours and spending patterns. Companies should ally with both large specialist partners as well as start-ups from the innovation ecosystem to collaborate and shape new market offerings.

These M&A strategies will affect companies’ future business directions, their stories and expected business values. Business leaders need to be ready to redefine their strategies and develop new stories under the next-normal world with supporting fundamentals and commitments to achieve and create value for their investors.

As emphasised by Professor Damodaran, when a crisis hits, a company’s story matters more than ever before since numbers can no longer be used as a crutch.

Gold price drops, following silver #SootinClaimon.Com

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Gold price drops, following silver

Biz insightsFeb 03. 2021

By The Nation

The price of gold dropped by Bt100 per baht weight in morning trade on Wednesday, the Gold Traders Association reported.

As of 9.25am, the buying price of a gold bar was Bt26,100 per baht weight and selling price Bt26,200, while gold ornaments cost Bt25,635.56 and Bt26,700, respectively.

At close on Tuesday, the buying price of a gold bar was Bt26,200 per baht weight and selling price Bt26,300, while gold ornaments cost Bt25,726.52 and Bt26,800, respectively.

The spot gold price moved to US$1,844 (Bt55,339) per ounce in the morning, while the Comex (Commodity Exchange) gold price slumped by $30.50 to $1,833.40 per ounce on Tuesday due to the over 10 per cent fall in the price of silver after the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, increased its maintenance margin to deal with individual investor speculation.

The Hong Kong gold price meanwhile dropped by HK$70 to $17,000 (Bt65,817) per tael, the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society reported.

Digital Finance Controllership: Moving from robots to intelligent automation #SootinClaimon.Com

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Digital Finance Controllership: Moving from robots to intelligent automation

Biz insightsJan 28. 2021Joeyvoen TeoJoeyvoen Teo

By Montri Khongkruephan, Joeyvoen Teo

Special to The Nation

Across finance today, organisations are challenged to manage large volumes of structured and unstructured data coming from disparate systems. As the global economy evolves rapidly to recover from the prolonged impact of Covid-19, the finance function continues to feel the pressure to generate significant value-added insights for the organisation.

The ability of CFOs to leverage digital and intelligent technologies to position their finance function as the catalyst to drive data-driven insights and identify strategic opportunities, will determine the future of their organisations.

Shift to building smarter bots

The first wave of a financial digital core was led by the adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The RPA ability to automate repetitive rules-based processes, to open email attachments, complete e-forms, and initiate workflows, record, re-key data, make calculations, generate reports and work around the clock was revolutionary. The benefits of automation are obvious in cost reduction, lower error rates, improved service, turnaround time reduction and increased scalability of operations, with improved controls and compliance.

However, RPA has its limitations. Bots are able to follow logical rules-based processes – but unable to see patterns, understand the logic behind the data or extract meaning from images, text or speech.

Since late 2019, organisations have been seeking to scale these solutions by integrating intelligent and cognitive AI capabilities such as speech recognition, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to automate perceptual- and judgement-based tasks and predictions that were once reserved for humans.

This has shifted the paradigm, extending automation to a whole new potential. Organisations are now able to become more efficient and agile as they transform into fully dynamic digital businesses.

Montri Khongkruephan

Montri Khongkruephan

Benefits of intelligent cognitive automation

Machine learning, autonomics, machine vision, NLP and deep learning offer the ability to extract meaning from images, text or speech, detect patterns and anomalies, predictions analysis, recommendations and decisions.

A modernised financial digital core driven by RPA and intelligent cognitive capabilities has the ability to eliminate closed tasks and provide real-time analytics to support business objectives. Leading organisations are leveraging the digital core to reimagine financial processes, enhance strategic business partnership through real-time analytics to rapidly respond to business changes and M&A activities.

A recent Deloitte survey found executives of organisations currently scaling intelligent automation have already achieved an average 27 per cent reduction in costs, as compared to the expected 22 per cent, from their implementations to date.

Digital finance controllership

In digital finance controllership, a specialised combination of accounting knowledge and flexible in-memory financial applications is being used to modernise business data and logic.

Finance controllers can now transform business and finance processes, achieving higher efficiency, speed and accuracy, including by automating predictions and decisions on the basis of structured and unstructured inputs.

By combining internal financial information and operational data with external information to make sense of an increasingly complex world, financial controllers are able to generate new insights and identify hidden patterns.

Many ERP systems are faced with the challenge of automating the full end-to-end Close, Consolidate and Report process but often do not fully support the linkages within the business. This can lead to a fragmented, manual and inefficient close, as well as to inefficiencies throughout the accounting period.

In contrast, integrated systems promote a clean transactional data flow from source directly to financial systems (sub-ledgers and general ledgers), reducing the number of transaction-level variances that require manual reconciliation.

The previously fragmented and manual financial close management is being replaced with a hub-and-spoke model where applications can now work in synchronization within a single data source.

RPA software helps to pull, aggregates fragmented financial data, while the processing of the data are under the direction of more advanced intelligent and cognitive technologies. When the AI algorithm has completed processing its functions on the raw data, RPA then pushes the final output answers to the target systems.

How to start?

Embracing intelligent cognitive technology requires strategic transformational change and design thinking, but can play a key role in ensuring long-term implementation success.

As financial controllerships embark on their modernisation journey it is critical to establish a clear, long-term vision and road map that has buy-in and input from key stakeholders across the risk and finance organisations. There is a need to examine the opportunities of AI to address today’s business challenges, prioritise the opportunities, articulate how the intelligent cognitive automation will add value to the business, and align the next steps.

In summary, financial controllers have the opportunity to harness sophisticated intelligent cognitive technologies, analytical tools, and methods. The importance lies in the ability to identify quick-wins and decisions to address key pain points such as manual journal entries, data aggregation processes, manual reconciliation processes, and product control and reporting preparation processes.

This targeted automation of manual processes will help to enhance overall data quality, reduce costs, increase processing speeds, and better manage the risk of reporting errors in the near term, providing a quick turnaround in ROI. This, in turn, will pave the way to longer-term investments and strategy to incorporate more sophisticated intelligent cognitive capabilities such as machine learning, predictive analytics and AI to achieve a true transformation in digital finance controllership.

Montri Khongkruephan is a partner, and Joeyvoen Teo a senior manager, of audit & assurance at Deloitte Thailand.