AI Will Take Longer To Change The World Than Forecasters Say

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become the stuff of dreams. For some, these dreams look more like nightmares in which large sections of the population become unemployable. As my recent discussion in Forbes showed, both history and economic logic argue that such fears miss likely realities. Some, of course, will suffer job loss, but ultimately, these technological innovations, just like all those before them, will create more jobs than they destroy. Certainly, efforts to meet an unlikely challenge with a government-provided universal basic income (UBI) will do little except perhaps reduce the size of the workforce and allow a few technology oligarchs to feel “woke.”

AI dreams come with a very different character as well. These see a near future of robotic servants lifting the cares of everyday life. They see a limitless supply of affordable goods and services. Some describe flying driverless cars, others trains and planes that move at unheard of speeds. AI will not just take the pain out of living, it will take the travail out of travel. In these dreams, AI will make everyone smarter, too, by providing us with clever handmaidens to guide our decisions. And this is just a small sample of the prospects envisioned. Perhaps someday all these wonders will appear, but again, history and economic logic argue that such a day will take much longer to arrive than many anticipate.

Each past wave of innovation has also fostered such dream-like predictions (along with their dystopian cousins). None of the dreams have come true. The dystopian ones never and the wonderful ones never in the way they are initially cast or at the speed described by forecasters. The benefits take much longer to arrive than most typically envision. Before benefits become widespread, economies and societies must experiment with innovations. They must find applications to daily life and business, government and defense. When enough time has past for this process to gain momentum, and it always takes time, the ultimate change typically surpasses the initial, dreamy forecasts. There is every reason to expect a repeat of this pattern with AI, in terms of its general contours if not its specifics.

The computer revolution of the past 50-some years provides a near perfect illustration. Despite early fears of widespread unemployment and more pleasant dreams of high-speed business, neither happened, certainly not on the schedule originally forecast. It took 20 years from the first computers built during the Second World War to develop a commercially viable model, Univac, in the early 1960s. Even then, it took time before people and business recognized the potential. It is noteworthy in this regard that the 1975 Economic Report of the President (authored incidentally by Alan Greenspan) never used the word computer when discussing productivity. Indeed, the word does not appear once in the document.

Even as large firms and governments began using mainframes, it took another 20 years for the personal computer (PC) to develop so that computing power could become a part of small business and the everyday lives of individuals and office workers. It took another 20 years before the PC and the Internet together allowed e-commerce and e-communication that have so transformed business and daily life. That is more than half a century from the first innovation. Though Moore’s Law, which states that computing power doubles every two years, helped the process of transformation, it was less of a factor than the time it took for society and businesses to experiment with applications and then adjust to them.

If anything, the exciting revolutions in nuclear power and rocket science have taken even longer to have their transforming effects. It took 10-15 years from the military application of nuclear technology to the construction of viable reactors. During that time, along with the dystopian scenarios, forecasts of atomic-powered planes and cars littered popular discussion as well as projections of floating cities that would free humankind from the confines of geography. People are still waiting, even for a reactor with which the general public feels comfortable.

It is the same with space travel. When John F. Kennedy issued his challenge to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to land on the moon before the end of the 1960s, rocket science had already advanced steadily for some 25-30 years. When the space program began to show results, popular forecasts again took off. The world has seen tremendous advances since the 1969 moon landing, but space technology has yet to transform people’s lives as expected. Its biggest influence, satellites that have enabled rapid communication, is far from the dreams of the early years. Hilton has yet to open a hotel on the moon as per the late 1960s film “2001 Space Odyssey,” and despite the dreams of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, very few people travel into space.

It is not that practical, safe nuclear technology or space travel will not eventually have a transformational effect. They will. But it has already taken a lot longer than people thought when the innovations first broke on the public’s consciousness. The automobile has already transformed economics and society, but its changes, too, took longer than expected. It took more than 20 years or the first innovation to bring a practical design, the Model T, and then with 40-50 years before the economy and society adjusted and the car spawned interstate highways and the shape of the United States today. The highway system more or less accurately envisioned by General Motors at the 1939 World’s Fair did not arrive within a decade, as predicted. It did not arrive until the 1970s, in fact.

Energy provides a kind of negative illustration of typical forecasting errors. Thomas Malthus saw the imminent exhaustion of England’s coal resources late in the eighteenth century and forecast economic hardship as a result. He never considered longer-term technologies that would find ways to bring more coal to market and use oil as a substitute. As they did, society avoided the doom he forecast and then eventually transformed itself much more thoroughly than anyone expected early in the process. When in the 1970s the price of oil jumped 400%, forecasters saw “doomsday” for the U.S. economy unless, in the words of a U.S. News and World Report article, “a massive effort to solve the problem is launched immediately.” Nor were the 1970s the first time. Indeed, the standing joke among oil analysts is how forecasters have called for the world to run out of oil in ten years for at least the last 100 years. It has not. Now an excess of hydrocarbons has prompted today’s forecasters to claim immediate threats to the planet’s climate.

One of the problems with forecasting, especially in the period immediately after an innovation appears, lies in what one might describe as crossovers. Forecasters look at the strides in one area of technology and apply them to another where engineering issues are sometimes entirely different. Miniaturization offers one example. It had such power in electronics that forecasters saw similar patterns everywhere else, in automobile engines, for instance, or alternative energy sources. If miniaturization enabled computer engineers to take the power of a room-sized computer of the 1970s, multiply it many times and put it a small mobile phone, then cars would soon have engines no bigger than a man’s fist, allowing all sorts of other advantages. Wind turbines would soon fit neatly onto each homeowner’s roof. This would certainly extend what happened with electronics. But it seems that very small engines have trouble powering cars at speed or even moving them. They certainly will not arrive as fast as miniaturization did in electronics, and even there, things took longer than memories today suggest. Meanwhile the advances in wind turbines indicate that bigger is better. Instead of fitting on the roof or in the backyard, new designs these days stand taller than the Washington Monument.

Someday, AI technologies will almost surely change the economy and society. Driverless cars may indeed permit 100-mile-per-hour beltways and high-speed trains will run at remarkable speed through vacuum-sealed tubes, a recurring idea recently resurrected by Elon Musk. Many of the dreams connected to AI will come true, or something like them will. But none of this will occur until society and the economy have had time to make prototypes practical and then go through the long process to experiment with applications and adjust practice to them. Immediate forecasts of change entirely miss these time consuming intervals. Then, years after forecasts of radical change have failed to arrive on schedule, the economy and society will make their adjustments and the innovation will have much more far-reaching effects than even the dreamers predicted.

Originally published on Forbes.com.

From Paris to Berlin, a European Perspective on Brexit

Following the resignation of chief Brexit negotiator David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the news agenda in the UK is, again, dominated by Brexit. Notably sisyphean, recent UK political developments seem to be going two steps forward, three steps back, and are breeding uncertainty about the nation’s future. The apparent failure of ongoing internal negotiations are weakening outward negotiations with the European Union. And increasing ambiguity as to what a soft vs. hard Brexit* means is confusing the public. Nationally, we are seeing the media’s stances on the state of the nation differ greatly, and reporting on Brexit seems to be increasingly dichotomous. But, the EU consists of 28 member nations, for the time being anyway, and the UK is only one actor in the many Brexit conversations. So, what do people think on the continent?

Like the Franco-German coalition pondering the future of Europe, my colleague Gregor Riemann and I decided to join forces and look at the latest Brexit developments from the continental European perspective. Leveraging our respective linguistic skills and armed with our latest copies of Le Monde and Die Zeit, we analysed media coverage in France and Germany and shared insights into what drives conversations on the other side of the English Channel. Fortunately, we’re not the first to delve into this, and academia has taken first stabs at analysing sentiment. In a report published in February, titled, “Sympathetic but unconcerned: How Europe’s media cover Brexit”, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford has provided us with some valuable insights.

Brexit EU Perspective

In France, factual coverage with a hint of moquerie

Two years after the referendum, we note a certain fatigue and emotional detachment in France with regard to Brexit negotiations. Now commenting as an observer rather than a participant, my countrymen seem rather satisfied for the conversation to take place at an EU-UK level. While making a balanced use of British sources and viewpoints for their coverage, French journalists still embrace a certain “parti pris” and tend to focus on challenges for the UK rather than for France or the EU (as highlighted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism).

Not tired of experts yet, we see that reporting is often complemented by research and analysis of facts rather than passionate declarations, making for informative reporting of a complex and multifaceted issue. Added to this rather factual coverage of recent developments, of course, is a touch of home-made mockery for good measure.

Far from the CAPITAL-LETTER headlines used by British tabloids, the relative sobriety of French reporting on Brexit negotiations can surprise. However, we also note a Macron-inspired news trend: national business pages never miss an opportunity to highlight a business’ decision to invest in France rather than Britain.

Living in London, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine that Brexit is not at the heart of every conversation. The reality is that for the UK’s best frenemy, Brexit is mainly perceived as a business issue to be dealt with by the EU, and falls to the bottom of a national agenda dominated by immigration, Macron’s reforms and, lately, football.

In Deutschland, nationalistic policies leave a bitter aftertaste

Though notorious for its Schadenfreude, the German media seems to primarily report Brexit developments from an objective angle, with a hint of its classic complacency. The news coverage primarily sides with the EU on issues, rather than pushing a German political agenda. However, coverage in left-leaning newspapers, such as Sueddeutsche Zeitung, seem to question any EU critical developments with more scrutiny. Business- and finance- heavy publications such as Frankfurter Allgemein Zeitung (FAZ) and Handelsblatt focus on Brexit’s economic impact – with emphasis on potential repercussions to the German economy, and where the EU may be able to absorb talent, e.g., Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris.

Based on the reporting, much of German media seems to be interested in understanding the cultural and economic reasoning behind Britain’s departure from the EU. Historically, and socio-culturally, the German public has developed a strong skepticism towards movements deemed overly nationalistic or negligent of communities. Because of this shared history, the proposed departure is difficult for many to grasp. A number of left-leaning authors seem to conflate a departure from the EU with a departure from Europe. Counter-culturally, however, a growing chunk of the population, e.g., AfD voters**, critically eye the governance structure of the European Union and question Angela Merkel’s migration policies.

Overarchingly, it is important to note that despite the coverage, public sentiment seems to be that Brexit will not significantly impact Germany or the European Union. It’s a point of conversation, but only to the politically interested or frustrated.

Reporting in numbers

Though different in semantics and approaches, Germany and France are broadly reporting from a UK perspective on Brexit developments – Germany 69% and France 79.3%. Notably different is that Germany’s media is approximately three times more likely to report from an EU perspective at 20.5%, and more than twice as likely to report from a national perspective at 8.5%. France on the other hand, is nearly five times as likely to take ‘another’ national perspective at 9.9%. (Reuters Institute, Oxford University, 2018)

The study further states, “Contrary to popular assumptions that news media are biased and opinionated, the study found that European Brexit coverage was predominantly fact-based. Most (78%) analysed news items took no position in relation to Brexit. Only 22% conveyed a clear opinion.”

Understanding media and societal landscapes is crucial when decoding articles and analysing reports – but, importantly, it allows us to effectively advise clients on intercultural differences. What these reporting styles mean for the future of Brexit and, more importantly, the UK remains uncertain, but it does offer a glimpse into how the topic is being treated beyond Britain.

Gregor Riemann contributed to this article.

* Hard Brexit = Departure from both the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market, ending the EU budget payments and withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Soft Brexit = Departure from the EU but maintaining parts of the Customs Union and/or Single Market, staying a quasi-EU member without voting power and (perhaps) with less constraints on its sovereignty.

As membership of the European Union is rooted in four core and indivisible principles, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour; implications of the format of Brexit are going to be decisive in shaping the future of the country, from trade agreements and immigration to investments and rule of law.

** The AfD is the “Alternative fuer Deutschland” — alternative party for Germany — a right wing party that is growing in membership in Germany, which has been facing criticism for a range of internal and external issues. Read more on Wikipedia.

 

At Vested, Diversity is More Than Just a Buzzword

On the heels of Pride Month, the word diversity seems to be everywhere. Companies are making more of an effort to include a range of ethnicities, ages, genders and backgrounds in their leadership, and rainbow flags fly high across the streets of New York and beyond. We’re thrilled to see a mix of faces, whether it be at our local coffee shop or in corporate America. We’re also equally proud to say that creating an inclusive experience isn’t just an initiative or a box to check; it’s part of our DNA.

If you walk into our office and take a look around, you’ll find an unexpected mix of people—especially in the context of financial services, which has a reputation for being painfully homogeneous. Our staff has lived and worked all over the world, including France, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Ireland—to name a few. And they bring this experience with them each day when they come to the office. Below, a sampling of the countries where we’ve lived — and this doesn’t include the U.S. or UK, where we currently have offices. Sixty percent of Vested employees are dual citizens, and we have seven different religions represented in the office daily.

In our opinion, diversity is about more than one’s upbringing or heritage. It’s also about diversity of thought and opinion. We actively seek to hire talent that’s *not* homogenous, smart candidates from different backgrounds that bring new experiences, perspectives and talents to our team.

For a specialist firm, Vested actually has a vast and varied crew, as you can see from our numerous areas of study detailed below: sure, there are some here that have studied finance or communications, but also engineering, English or French, accounting and public policy. Successful marketing and communications is about illustrative storytelling, and one’s ability to reach a wide swath of demographics: different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, genders, or something else. The best way for us to understand those groups, and their needs and wants, is to ensure Vested has those perspectives as well.

It’s no accident. Diversity at Vested starts from the top, down. The firm was founded by three immigrants and second generation-ers, each from a different corner of the world. Dan, was born in London and moved to Boston when he was 23. And COO and fellow co-founder Ishviene Arora emigrated from India as a child to escape the 1984 riots; she later returned to finish high school at an international school in New Delhi, where she was similarly surrounded by a diverse set of peers. And my own family immigrated to the U.S., where my dad scratched out a living being a dishwasher his first year in America. My parents embody the American dream – moving to the U.S. in their 20s, starting with nothing and eventually saving up money to start their own dry cleaners. My childhood was largely spent at the store, sitting inside of big dry cleaning storage boxes, reading library books, and peering out of the holes to see what was happening outside. It’s this perspective that shaped who I am as a person, a leader, and communicator today.

Immigrants count for 27.5 percent of entrepreneurs in the U.S. And more than 40 percent of companies on the U.S. Fortune 500 list were launched by immigrants or children of immigrants. Look at eBay. The ecommerce website was founded by French native Pierre Morad Omidyar; and Google was co-founded by Russian-born Sergey Brin.

In fact, immigrants are the only reason Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the area became a destination for scientists and engineers. And by 2000, 53 percent of the Valley’s science and engineering workforce was foreign-born.

And like Silicon Valley, diversity has been a huge driver for us, too. Vested is the fastest-growing PR agency in the world, and its unique staff has been a large and important part of that. As the firm keeps expanding, we will continue to incorporate the unique perspectives of those who make Vested a leader in the industry.

Exploring Consumer Optimism: Vested UK hosts Breakfast & Brainfood Event

At Vested we are passionate believers in the value of insight to fuel authentic, relevant communications. This week, consumer optimism was top of the agenda at Vested UK, as we brought together leaders in financial services communications and marketing to discuss the latest consumer trends, at our inaugural Breakfast & Brainfood* event.

Alongside a healthy breakfast, the ‘brainfood’ was delivered by the fantastic Paul Flatters from futures agency Trajectory, who lifted the lid on the reasons why we should all start every day feeling cheerful and whether fake consumer optimism is as much of a threat as fake news.

Paul kickstarted everyone’s metabolisms outlining how globalisation has impacted income growth across the world. Hard hitting stats for a Tuesday morning – while the emerging middle class in India and China saw income rise up to nearly 80% between 1997 and 2008, it flatlined in the developed world. One slide that powerfully captures our divided world: the rise of Trump and the reality of the Brexit vote.

Generational equipoise

Understanding the UK is hitting the point of a generational equipoise, when every generation from Z to the Boomers, will account for approximately the same proportion of society was a fascinating insight when we started talking to the importance of understanding and targeting different audiences. The research showed that Boomers are far more content and optimistic than their younger cohorts, a flip from traditional thinking where the young are the optimists and their elders have a more time-weary view.

Audience fragments, not segments

This is most radically demonstrated when we look at millennials’ housing prospects – the bellwether of ‘how things have changed’. According to Trajectory’s extrapolations, the so-called avocado generation’s pessimism is well founded when you understand that they will have spent an average of £53,000 on rent by the age of 30 versus the baby boomers who in real terms spent just £9,000 on rent in the same time frame. Yet, the guidance around the table was to think fragments not segments when we think about audiences and messaging, breaking down audiences by mindset and outlook alongside more traditional demographies.

Who is the messenger?

Understanding the nation’s psyche opened up a fantastic debate around the table about the most trusted channels and messengers that we can leverage. Trajectory’s research showed that the general population is largely distrustful of traditional information sources – not necessarily what any of us want to hear but, as we dug deeper, there are clear opportunities.

It was tabled that people are now more likely to believe their peers about the state of the economy, as opposed to an economist, in the same way that the once untouchable medical profession has been replaced by ‘self-taught’ Dr Google doctors. For communicators, a key validation of the rise of advocacy programmes and the use of influencers, although with clear guidance around the table that influencers need to be chosen carefully to ensure relevance and brand authenticity.

This reliance on the individual to drive trust was clearly seen in a conversation around the platforms and the value of vloggers on YouTube, where trust is placed in the person rather than the platform. Contrary to more traditional media formats, where generally trust lies at brand level.

But has traditional media changed all that much? Not really, it seems, but the scope of political ideal has expanded with the rise in polarity. The centralist Blair sentiment has certainly disappeared: leave or remain; Trump or Clinton, actively choose your side or risk being spoken for, as a certain pizza chain learned the hard way following its promotional campaign in The Sun. But what does this polarisation mean for the future of society? If individuals are only exposed to messages from groups which they’re sympathetic with, the growth of tribalism becomes a conceivable reality. And where will this end? What a latte things we have to think about.

Concluding remarks  

As we came to the end of our nutritious discussion, it was concluded that amidst a world of changing consumer optimism, the communications landscape is constantly changing. New media exuberate popularity and resilience, even when faced with crises, traditional media is rife with polarisation, paid media is just as valued as earned, and we have a love-hate relationship with trusting the media. For communications professionals, or anyone working in an outward facing role, this is crucial information for future proofing strategies.

Consumer optimism and sentiment underpins everything from economics to medical advice from our peers, and professionals will do well to milk the valuable knowledge gained from this. Be ready to embrace the differences in sentiment, find the fuel that makes consumers more trusting, and deliver nourishing content for your audience’s needs. Oh, and join us for our next event – you won’t r-egg-ret it!

*The best six nutrients for brain health are B1, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc.

Consumer Optimism – Vested UK hosts Breakfast & Brainfood Event

The Brain Behind the Bronze – Vested Sits Down with Fearless Girl’s Creator Stephen Tisdalle

In our last blog post, we looked at the symbolic move of everybody’s favorite pint-sized icon, the Fearless Girl, from the Charging Bull to the New York Stock Exchange; and whether the organization’s move to appoint its first female leader was at all influenced by the statue.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the brain behind the bronze – State Street Global Advisors Chief Marketing Officer, Stephen Tisdalle – for a firsthand account of the statue’s inception, its influence, and the power of women in leadership roles. Stephen stopped by the Vested office in late May as part of the company’s Lunch and Learn series, where key players in the financial and marketing world share their experience with the staff.

So, where did it all begin?

Fearless Girl was conceived out of a clear State Street Global Advisors communications plan to rally support around women in finance, Stephen said, noting that companies who diversify their staff and leadership often see higher returns for investors. Fiduciary responsibility was the main message. And although State Street Global Advisors had investments that reflected those values and beliefs, Fearless Girl wasn’t self-motivated.

 “Originally, this wasn’t about how our gender diversity was being met or exceeded in the company,” he said, adding this was a common misconception around the statue.

 While Fearless Girl quickly won over the hearts of many New Yorkers, finding a way to represent a female presence in finance that truly resonated wasn’t easy. The team tossed around a variety of ideas on actualizing the gender diversity index, asset stewardship and leadership, including one that involved a big cow statue opposite the Charging Bull—but nothing stuck.

 With a limited budget and quick turn-around time, finally, Fearless Girl was born. The sassy eight-year-old would capture the expression of optimism among young women who weren’t intimidated by large organizations, typically run by men. The goal was to create a meaningful, but likely regionally-focused, statement.

“Worst-case scenario, we figured we’d put her in the lobby of our Boston office,” Stephen, who’s been with State Street Global Advisors since 2016, said. He got his start in marketing after his role in management consulting for British Airways sparked a fascination with what motivated people to choose one airline over the other.

But experience her, they did. The emotional connection to Fearless Girl by native New Yorkers and tourists alike quickly went viral, popping up in major news outlets and across social media.

 One year later and a few blocks away, she’s still a force to be reckoned with. Since Fearless Girl, there’s been a massive push for big brands (transcending beyond State Street’s own clients) to reach out to women for seats on their boards, holding organizations to a standard to commit to prioritizing women’s leadership, and started a meaningful dialogue around the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance funds (ESG).

 “Fearless Girl provided a basis and brand permission to enter into discussions to change the composition of the board,” Stephen said. “We want to become an organic inspiration for that. I also think there are ways that we can draw attention to the broader ESG benefits that are delivered in a portfolio, and Fearless Girl has a role to play there.”

“Fearless Girl” and Stacey Cunningham Take on the NYSE

“Fearless Girl” came. She saw. She conquered.

Just one month after moving the iconic Fearless Girl statue from the Charging Bull to the New York Stock Exchange, the city’s biggest money mover appointed its first-ever female leader. Stacey Cunningham, the former COO of NYSE Group, was tapped to be the organization’s new president, succeeding Thomas Farley.

“Since the moment I stepped onto the trading floor, the @NYSE has always held a special place in my heart. I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization,” she said in a tweet.

Coincidence? We’re not totally sold.

Although the city claims it wanted to find a more “pedestrian-friendly” location while maintaining the integrity of Fearless Girl’s purpose, the timing is not only fascinating, but also empowering.

“Our goal is to promote the power of having women in leadership, and placing her right next to the New York Stock Exchange is really the perfect metaphor,” Cyrus Taraporevala, president and CEO of State Street Global Advisors, told the Daily News in mid-April.

And what better way to do so than a literal break through the glass ceiling on the heels of a metaphorical one?

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, a former Goldman Sachs employee, said the statue is a “much, much more serious symbol of trying to deal with a broken status quo for women,” particularly in the corporate world.

Fearless Role Models on the Rise

While Cunningham’s appointment comes 226 years into the NYSE’s existence, it’s just one of many major breakthroughs for women over the past six months. Deemed “Year of the Woman,” 2018 has been an iconic few months for females. We’ve seen the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements blossom, inspiring women across all industries to speak up against sexual harassment. We’ve watched as 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez stood in the face of lobbyists and politicians, demanding gun reform with the eloquence of a seasoned policy-maker. And right here at Vested, we’ve witnessed our own team of talented and dedicated ladies make their mark on the world of financial communications.

Much like Fearless Girl, women have come a long way in a short period of time and will only continue to persevere in corporate America. Look at women running for office. As it stands, women make up just one in five elected officials on Capitol Hill, Politico reported. But this year, a record number of women are throwing their hats in the ring: 575, to be exact. Organizations like Get Her Elected, She Should Run, and others are working to ensure 2018 is a year for the books.

In turn, we will hopefully see a change in the private sector. Forbes predicted that with more female candidates and officeholders, women in the private sector will be more inclined to push for the C-Suite. The theory is based on sheer statistics. Women win elections at the same rate as men, reports She Should Run. But often times, they aren’t encouraged to run and therefore are less represented.

Female Leadership in Corporate America

It’s arguably the same in corporate America. Women make up 44 percent of the overall S&P 500 labor force, but represent just 25 percent of all executive and senior-level officials and managers. This is likely because women aren’t encouraged to lead. The more women in leadership, the more other women are inspired to fight for a seat at the table.

The stock market itself has also seen a positive uptick in female diversity. The ETF HERS, a TSX ticker for the TSX ticker for the Evolve North American Gender Diversity Index ETF, debuted in Canada last fall and is available in hedged and unhedged versions. Similarly, the SHE ETF has attracted $319 million in assets since its launch in March 2016, and continues to prosper. It was recently traded at about $70.25 per unit, according to NASDAQ, and analysts see a 13.09% upside when looking through to average analyst targets of the underlying holdings.

Still, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the industry before women are truly treated as equals. There’s still somehow just one full-time female trader on the floor of the stock exchange. Lauren Simmons is also the only African American woman, and the youngest, at just 23 (also killing it). Plus, New York is home to 55 Fortune 500 companies. Just one of them has a female CEO. And as of April, the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 list nation-wide dropped, from 27 to 24. The gender pay gap we discussed in an earlier blog isn’t much better.

But we’re confident that Fearless Girl and the awesome women of finance, like Cunningham, will continue to persevere and shape the industry into a more inclusive and progressive place.

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we sit down with Stephen Tisdalle, the mind behind Fearless Girl and State Street Global Advisors CMO.

Google News’ Revamp: Friend or Foe?

We’re fortunate to work with some of the country’s most talented reporters, dedicated to the truth and committed to covering finance from all angles. These talented individuals restore our faith in the unbiased media, despite existing in the era of #fakenews and clickbait.

Google too sees value in quality reporters and wants their voices to be heard. After pledging to spend $30 million on promoting journalism in March, the tech giant announced that it will revamp its news feature, creating a “For You” section, with five stories curated for the individual. These stories may include global headlines, local news and new developments from stories you’ve been following, and are curated by artificial intelligence (AI). From here, you can switch to the “Headlines” tab, which provides additional stories from around the world and allows viewers to dive deeper into topics you’re interested in.

AI-Powered Google News Curation

The case for AI is clear and the idea of an individually-curated selection of news headlines does indeed sound positive. The revamp also includes a new format called “Newscasts,” which uses natural language understanding  to package articles, videos and quotes on a given topic. This allows readers to get a breadth of sources on a particular story. And  Google News’ “Full Coverage” feature gives readers a side-by-side comparison of how different outlets are covering a story. It even includes an FAQ section with relevant tweets and fact-checks on each story.

Pretty impressive, right? Using AI to curate news is inevitable. Human curation is incredibly costly, and in many cases, dependent upon a news source’s relationship with a digital publisher. In the past, news companies would only partner with specific companies, such as Flipboard or Digg, to release stories from behind the paywall and thus be included in the curation. It’s likely Google won’t run into this issue given its clout and its promise to create a subscription service to better incentivize publishers.

The company also noted in an interview with CNNMoney that it won’t partner with all news organizations but instead draw content from “trusted news sources.” This is good news for quality journalists and established publications, but bad news for those who don’t trust the “fourth estate.”

Using AI to curate news also has its downfalls as it creates a news siloh that could prevent readers from looking outside their comfort zone. We call it the echo chamber. If you’re only reading stories on a given topic or only searching terms that themselves have a bias to them (i.e. gun violence vs. gun rights), you’re likely to get news coverage that reinforces your interests and views.

News With a Personal Touch

Human-curated sources, however, have another level of nuance and editorial vision. A modern classic, theSkimm is hugely popular, with more than 5 million subscribers. It’s simply a daily newsletter with the “most important” headlines, according to its creators, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg. The writing is conversational and easy to digest,  despite covering dense topics like health and foreign policy. Some Vesties argue it trivializes important news topics, but if it means those 5 million subscribers are accessing stories they might not otherwise, then overall it’s a good thing in our book.

Another good example is  The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet. It gives readers 150-200-word run-downs of big news stories from reputable sources alongside relevant tweets and images, all of which are determined by the company’s staff. The section’s traffic has grown 35 percent year-over-year and accounted for 10 percent of the site’s total traffic in 2016. We at Vested distribute the human-curated “Vested Suggested” on Monday afternoons (Tuesday mornings in the UK!). We also have a list of finance-specific curated newsletters and round-ups for new hires to follow.

Human or AI: Where Do We Stand?

Why? Why favor human-curated news over AI? Because there’s a massive disconnect between what consumers say they want, and what they actually want. Although we hear people say they want highly personalized news, at the end of the day, we believe consumers are secretly relieved by being told what’s important. After all, the prized news organizations whose reporters we have the pleasure of working with are the experts. It’s the reason why talking heads on cable news still exist, and night-time news talk shows like The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight are so successful. There’s a level of context and competence when deciding what’s important for the public, determined by humans, for humans, that cannot easily be replaced by an algorithm.

Regardless, we’ll be eager to see how the Google News revamp plays out and whether users will be more inclined to consult curated news round-ups versus standardized ones. Stay tuned as we explore the app’s pros and cons and continue to keep covering the pulse of all things media.

SCOTUS Opens Door For Sports Betting: Three Implications For Finance

The Supreme Court last Monday overturned a federal ban on sports betting, opening the door for states to legalize book-making and placing bets on contests.

There are dozens of fairly obvious ramifications that apply to many different industries. Here are three questions loosely related to finance, and potential answers.

How much will the valuation of sports teams rise?

In short, a lot.

Responding to the news, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who owns the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, told CNBC he expects the value of professional sports franchises to double. But Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, wasn’t as bullish. “Remember, there’s already a black market,” he said last Monday. “Even though this has been pushed back to the states, there is still going to be a lot of federal regulation.”

While it’s tough to make the case that all teams are today twice as valuable as they were last week, Cuban’s basic point carries some weight. Soon, leagues will in all likelihood have the potential for new, lucrative partnerships with gaming corporations that make books.

Additionally, stadiums could double as sports-betting facilities and leagues could, to my understanding, conduct their own book-making activities or partner with established casinos to have a bookmaker on site. Fans could grab a hot dog and place a bet on their favorite player or team on their way to their seats.

The NBA has flirted with this idea already. Back in January, the league requested a 1% “integrity fee” from sports betting operations in Vegas to help compensate for the risk and expense created and the commercial value their product provides the gaming industry. Though that may not seem like much, it’s actually quite a steep price for dealing with state by state compliance and regulations. According to the AGA, legal sports books usually produce 3.5% to 5% in revenue and that a 1% “integrity fee” on all legal wagers would amount to 20% to 29% of a bookmakers total revenue.

As more teams implement data analytics into their player evaluations – the “Moneyball effect” – they will seemingly be free to license that data to counterparties, assuming no regulations to prohibit this get made. And obviously, the value of media rights could rise significantly, trickling down to individual teams through the leagues, which typically negotiate broadcast deals.

A lot of variables go into projecting the valuation of a professional sports franchise, but perhaps one of the biggest influencing factors that is rarely spoken about is the existence of a willing and capable buyer. In 2017, there was a new billionaire in the United States every other day, so increasing wealth inequality, combined with the new business initiatives now available to franchises and sports leagues, will in all likelihood combine to push valuations to new highs.

Does sports betting change consumer finance?

To the extent that sports wagers are financial products, there is a slight effect.

The commonly cited size of the sports betting market is $150 – 380 billion – a little more than double the amount of money as Americans spend on fruits, vegetables, and dairy, or 14 times what they spend going to the movies. The math behind this projection, however, is rather dubious: The estimate comes from the American Gaming Association, which adjusted a 1999 government estimate of about $80 billion in illegal sports betting to 2017 dollars using GDP growth. Writing in Marketwatch, an Ohio State University economist pegged the size of the market at closer to $67 billion – still quite large, but significantly smaller than regularly reported.

From here, there isn’t really a commonly accepted set of facts to work from. No one knows how much of that activity gets funded by bookmakers who make predatory loans, and its difficult if not impossible to accurately estimate the percentage of financial catastrophes like lost savings or bankruptcies that have gambling addiction as a root cause.

Broadly, the capability to bet on sports is from a consumer finance standpoint similar to the capability to bet on, say, cryptocurrency. Crypto trading has not revolutionized consumer finance. What it has done is provided a small group of enthusiasts with something new to do with their money. There isn’t going to be new lending activity attributable to folks who want to go all-in on the Jets next year, but there will certainly be apps that have transactional or financial dimensions that grow in popularity.

How might sports betting impact state revenues?

Unfortunately, the ruling does not project as a major revenue boost for states.

First, state legislatures must act. The matter that set all of this in motion was Christie v. NCAA, which challenged the constitutionality of a 1992 federal law that banned states from authorizing sports betting. SCOTUS deemed the law unconstitutional, so now states are free to legalize sports betting – or to not.

Nine states are well-positioned with immediate effect. Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon legalized sports betting before the federal prohibition went into effect, and those laws are presumably once again in force. Connecticut, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia recently took successful legislative action on the subject in anticipation of the SCOTUS ruling.

However, most state legislatures are adjourned for the year, so – barring any special sessions – this is business they will most likely address in 2019. However, new state-level legislation in 2018 isn’t exactly a longshot: some statehouses are already contemplating special sessions to respond legislatively to last year’s tax law passage, and could address sports betting at that time as well.

Regardless of when more states act to legalize sports betting, the revenue implications are minimal. According to the American Gaming Association, adding sports betting to the forms of gambling already legal in many states would increase net betting by as much as $41.2 billion, which it says would net state and local governments about $3.4 billion in taxes.

But, collectively, states spent $2 trillion last year.

The potential for sports betting to produce revenue for states is real, but its potential to solve their budgetary problems seems minimal.

Most sports fans are inherently competitive – they want to be, and need to be, right.  Most have an opinion and a prediction that they talk about with their friends, and being able to put their money where their mouth is will drive activity once the state-level approaches are solidified.

For most people who make bets on sports as casual hobbies, the validation of making a correct prediction is almost as rewarding as the money made. Fantasy sports are so hugely popular because it gamifies the fandom of small groups. Now there is an opportunity for innovators to improve the experience of sports betting.

Financing The Royal Wedding: Meghan and Harry’s Celebration by the Numbers

While it may come as a shock, neither we new “Vesties” here in the UK, nor our colleagues in New York were invited to the royal wedding this weekend. However, in true nerdy form, we took it upon ourselves to analyse how this big-ticket wedding highlights some larger, financial wedding trends both in the U.S. and abroad.

The royal wedding is projected to cost a cool £32 million pounds. That’s about $43 million USD. To be fair, £30 million pounds (about $40 million USD) is going to security for the event. But if you take the security portion out of it, the royal wedding ceremony is more than 110 times the average cost of a UK wedding. Couples in the UK spend about  £27,161 on their wedding, which is at a record-high, up 10 percent from 2016. Similarly, couples in the U.S. spend about $35,329 on their weddings—an eight-percent increase from 2015.

Royal Wedding Economic Benefits

This royal wedding isn’t just about blowing money: it’s also a major, and positive, factor in the UK’s economy. Fast Money reported the couple’s nuptials are expected to contribute a whopping $406 million to UK tourism, and $67.7 million to the local tourist souvenir market for UK businesses.

Local charities may also get a boost. In lieu of a traditional wedding registry, the couple requested donations to a range of charities. These initiatives include Chiva Projects, a group helping kids with AIDS; Crisis UK, the national charity for homelessness; Corporal Scotty, an organization for kids of the armed forces; youth sports charity Street Games; the ocean conservation group Surfers Against Sewage; and Wilderness UK, which brings urban youth to the great outdoors.

Landlords could also benefit. Those interested in getting a first-hand look at the event can rent homes for around £100,000 that will overlook the royal wedding route.

Although we won’t be renting out our space for the event (we’re about three miles east of Windsor Castle), we’ll be keeping close tabs on Meghan as she makes her way down the aisle in her beaded Ralph & Russo gown and eager to see how much influence the royal wedding plays in greater London’s economy—after all, Meghan does receive 42 percent more online searches than “Brexit.”

 

10 Finance Meme Accounts to Follow Right Now

If you haven’t noticed, we have no shame when it comes to embracing our nerdy side. We geek out on asset alliterations, parity bond puns, and macro metaphors — and we’ll take any excuse to share them with others.

But we’re also constantly working towards proving that finance is so much more than suits and ties. It’s evolving into an industry with a clear personality: approachable, creative, and sometimes, yes, even downright funny. Whether it’s a relatable GIF about office life or a subtle but clever finance meme about the Federal Reserve, we’re constantly reminded that finance can be (read: is) fun.

Oh, you want in on the fun? Look no further. We’ve put together a list of our 10 favorite finance meme accounts on Instagram you should be following and sharing. Your coworkers will thank you.

 

A post shared by Haley Sacks (@mrsdowjones) on

@mrsdowjones

Everybody loves a good Kim Kardashian crying meme. Haley Sacks, the account owner, does a stellar job of playing to our inner low-culture-loving self and adding her own smart twist.

@crazymgmtconsultants

Client stress bringing ya down? Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and follow this account for a good laugh before the big pitch.

 

A post shared by Litquidity (@litquidity) on

@litquidity

Imagine the  internet’s hottest memes this week (Kanye and Trump, the yodeling Walmart boy, etc.) but better.

@bankingpledge

We solemnly swear this account will poke fun at every industry nuance—and terms like “industry nuance.”

 

@yourmomsfavoritebroker

It’s borderline impossible to work in this industry and not know someone who doesn’t have an Ivy league degree, a Hamptons share house, and the mentality of a 20-year-old frat boy. They’re not all bad, but the rest of the industry can rejoice – @yourmomsfavoritebroker is here to poke fun at the “typical finance bro” we’re desperately (and successfully) seeing fewer of (#TBT!).

@notyourfathersbroker

If you were expecting something similar to the guy who used to file your parents’ taxes, you’ve come to the wrong place.

 

A post shared by EBITDAD (@ebitdad) on

@EBITDAD

The worst (and by that we mean best) dad jokes meet financial nerdiness in this epic account.

@ArbitrageAndy

Got some epic but painfully geeky finance Snaps deep in your camera roll? We’ve found a home for them.

 

@TradingMemes

The only thing better than trading stock? Trading memes. Get your fix with this account.

@finance_god

Thank the lord: even more finance memes. Enjoy!