Productivity Still Disappointing

Productivity has picked up a bit but far from enough to support the growth most people would like. Nor is business installing new equipment and technology at a rate that would improve the productivity picture significantly. Without capital investment, and the robust advances in output per hour it would foster, hopes of rising wages and rising profits, growth generally, will remain just that – hopes instead of realities.

Since the great recession of 2008-09, output per hour has grown at a painfully slow pace. To be sure, the first year of recovery, 2010, saw economy-wide output per hour jump a gratifying 3.4%. But this surge came less from fundamental improvements than simply because business had the opportunity at last to put underutilized staff to work. After this comparatively brief bump up, the productivity picture only brought disappointment. The year 2011 saw almost no increase in output per hour. In the years that followed, the yearly rate of productivity growth failed even to break above 1.0%. On average between 2012 and 2016, productivity grew at a paltry 0.75% a year.  Since increases in output per hour are the only way business can afford wage increases, it is little wonder that wages during this time stagnated. Had output per hour expanded at just the 2.3% a year it averaged between 2002 and the 2007, wages would have risen naturally, perhaps enough to have forestalled the recent push for minimum wage hikes.

Capital spending by business has, as always, set the tone for productivity directions. It, after all, is what gives labor the most advanced equipment and systems that enable it to produce more with the same effort. Because of the paucity of such investment spending during that time, labor hardly got the assist it needed and has received in the past. Between 2012 and 2016, business expanded its real outlays on equipment a mere 3.25% a year, barely one third of the rate averaged during the previous expansion between 2003 and 2006. The gap was smaller with spending on technology, what the Commerce Department refers to as “intellectual property products,” but still present. In the earlier recovery, it grew 6.0% a year in real terms. In the 2012 to 2016 period it barely broke 5.0% a year. 

This poor showing in capital spending and consequently in productivity growth seems to have had three roots: First, the pain of the great recession remained fresh in the minds of business decision makers, rendering them more than a little cautious about any expansion plans. Second, American corporations faced a heavier tax burden than businesses did in most of the rest of the world, impelling American business to consider expansion abroad before it considered expansion at home. The capital spending overseas may have helped the companies, but not their American workers. Third, the Obama administration pursued a notably aggressive regulatory agenda that made business decision makers wary of any aggressive moves. Hopes of a change did emerge in 2017. Memories of the great recession had begun to fade and the Trump White House promised regulatory relief. The subsequent enactment of tax reform brought U.S. corporate taxes into line with most of the rest of the world, ending the previous inducement to choose overseas expansion over domestic.

At first, the picture seemed to brighten. During 2017, mostly in anticipation of the changed environment, business spending on new equipment jumped almost 10% in real terms. In 2018 it slowed a bit to a 6.0% rate of expansion but was still far faster than earlier in the recovery.  Meanwhile, spending on technology soared over 10%. Because it takes a while for such spending to translate into productivity growth, it would have been unreasonable to expect much response, but even so matters began to brighten. Output per hour picked up in 2017, rising 1.1%, more than twice the 0.5% recorded in 2016. In 2018, it grew again, by 1.2%.

More recent data, however, points to a return to earlier, disappointing patterns. According to the Census Bureau, new orders for non-defense capital goods have begun to drop. In February, the most recent month for which data are available, new orders for non-defense capital goods fell a steep 6.3%. Even stripping out the always-volatile aircraft component shows a 0.1% decline. Neither measure offers an encouraging indicator of such spending in the future.  If any given month’s data can mislead, the three months ended last February are hardly more encouraging. Overall orders for non-defense capital goods fell at a 1.6% annual rate during this time. And for the last twelve months, such orders show hardly any progress, having risen a mere 1.2%.

Though these orders figures hardly tell the whole story, the indication of future capital spending they offer bodes ill for future productivity gains. These figures also bode ill for future wage gains, for growth generally, and indirectly for any prospects that Washington can close the budget gap. It is, of course, entirely possible that the recent orders dip only reflects the volatile nature of these data.  Should orders turn up, as they did in 2017 and in early 2018, the picture would indeed brighten again. The next few months will tell. Right now, concern rules the day. 

Milton Ezrati is Vested’s chief economist. Check out his blog, Bitesize Investing.

ESG Is Not a Marketing Initiative, It’s a Global Imperative

Despite initial skepticism when it was termed in 2005, the focus on “ESG” (environmental and social impact, and company governance) has shifted from “do-gooder marketing play” to industry best practice throughout in the corporate sector. And it makes financial sense, too; the groundbreaking study “Who Cares Wins” disproved the notion that incorporating ESG factors into corporate policy hurt financial companies’ bottom line and proved instead that it was actually a practical long-term investment strategy.

Further, it also attracts capital markets investment from ESG or “impact” investors — a fast-growing cohort of the investing community. According to the 2018 Global Sustainable Investment Alliance Report, global sustainable investing assets total $30.7 trillion, and have increased by 34% in the past two years. Should firms need greater incentive to champion ESG initiatives, consider the impact on talent recruitment and retention. Ninety-four percent of Gen Zers believe that companies should address social and environmental issues. And millennials consider social responsibility when deciding which companies they want to support as employees, consumers and investors.

Of course, touting social responsibility efforts boosts companies’ reputations, but the importance of ESG goes far beyond public opinion or recruitment. This is particularly evident when it comes to the E in ESG. A measly 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. While it’s heartening to see eco-minded individuals shift their purchasing of lifestyle behaviors to be more kind to the environment, changing lightbulbs or ditching straws won’t affect the kind of change necessary to meet the UN’s climate goals. Established financial companies have an opportunity and, arguably, a responsibility, to leverage their klout to address global warming and to protect stakeholders from climate-related economic fallout.

For individual investors, sustainable investing is not only an ethical choice; it also functions as a risk-management strategy. Climate change related-phenomena have a tangible impact on a wide range of industries. For example, water scarcity is an issue for companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and industries from tourism to semiconductor manufacturing. Drought and other extreme weather events can halt production and damage earnings. Thus, investing in companies that are actively working to decrease their environmental footprints and reduce their dependence on protected resources protects the interests of shareholders.

Although responding to climate change requires hard work and often entails change, strong corporate leadership on this issue benefits everyone: financial firms, employees, consumers and the planet. We’re on the right path —  more than 80% of the world’s largest corporations, including a long list of financial services companies, measure and track ESG metrics according to the Global Reporting Institute’s standards. And that which is measured improves. But we don’t have the luxury of time. ESG initially shifted from “do-gooder marketing play” to industry best practice. It’s long-past time it shift further to, well, the norm.

Vested Dogs Boost Creativity

Pet-friendly workplaces are on the rise, and we’re happy to be part of that trend. We often have a pup in the office, and agree it boosts morale, retention and is great for work-life balance. Owning a dog is also correlated to greater creativity — no surprise since it means outdoor time, interaction with others, playful and childlike behavior (but maybe I’m biased). Meet some of the Vested pups!

#1 The Veteran

Buddy is a rescue dog from Animal Haven in SoHo. We think he is 9, the same age as our son. He’s planning an upcoming guest appearance at Vested, where he’ll teach a Lunch N Learn on chasing (trends, of course). -Christina Bertinelli

#2 The Activist

Pepperbee Phamkim has 8 years of deep expertise pointing at squirrels and eating things she’s not supposed to. She has a long track record of eating goose poop and putting up with children who think she’s a small brown pony to ride. A longtime member of the 100 Female Furry Founders Club, Pepperbee is a champion of gender equality in dog treat access. – Binna Kim

#3 The Celebrity

Bonita Applehead Wells was born in East L.A. and as a puppy, moved to Beverly Hills. She was soon scouted by a casting agent and began appearing in films as early as 8 months old. Bonita has often been compared to Meryl Streep for her incredible acting skills and marvelous bone structure. She looks forward to a long life with her family and encourages everyone to nap in the spot where the sun comes through the window. – Ali Wells

#4 The Surfer Boi

Oliver (Ollie) Ricci-Roberts turns 4 years old on April 25th. A city dog by week and a country boy by weekend, Ollie equally enjoys pounding the dirty NYC pavement and running on the beach. He’s happiest when he is sunbathing, traveling, at the office with one of his parents, getting a tummy rub, playing hard to get, or dressing up for a special occasion. -Amber Roberts

#5 The Influencer

Henry Naftali Pergament was born in Alabama and decided to make his way to the big apple to see if he could make a name for himself. After some hard work, Henry became the first canine real estate mogul by day and successful Asian markets trader by night. If he’s not planning world domination or working like a dog, you can find Henry snoring unfathomably loud, stealing every pair of socks his dad owns, or doing yoga on a couch he’s not allowed to be on. – Lucas Pergament

#6 The Hipster

The only evidence that Bucket originally hailed from North Carolina is his occasional bow tie. A true Brooklyn pupster now, he enjoys homemade cheese and organic sweet potato treats, frequenting the Fort Greene farmers market, and “upcycling” socks and gloves into chew toys. You’ll find him lazing in the sun with *minimum* two blankets, or obsessing over his latest squeaker toy. – Marian Daniells

#7 The Princess

Madison was raised in NYC and spent many of her days walking up and down the streets of Madison Avenue and getting pampered at her doggy day care, where they offer hot oil massages and blueberry facials! An old soul and deep thinker, she loves to cuddle and snuggle. Still the apple of her parents’ eye, she now has to share attention with her two human brothers. Fair warning, if interrupted when eating or chewing her bone, she will bite! -Ishviene Arora

#8 The Hunter

Meet Gherkin McSimon. He’s like the Six Million Dollar Man of dogs. Has had more back surgeries and gut resections than 10 other dogs would see in their lifetimes. Eats anything and everything – see gut surgeries – to the point that his vet called him Appetite For Destruction. Named after the London building not the pickle, though he is obviously also a little pickle. – Dan Simon

Bonus: The Power Couple

Two cute to fit into a tiny square, these love bugs deserve their own section. Meet Panda and Linus Campbell. This dynamite duo is new to the modeling scene but making a splash in their debut. Both hailing from the South, they enjoy tearing up yards and doggie gymnastics. When they aren’t taking glamour shots, they can be found sunning themselves and slowly eating through doormats. Panda lives for the spotlight and Linus is fine to take a back seat to let her shine! – Lauren Pozmanter

Vested & Qwoted Celebrate Financial Journalists

The Vested team raised a glass with financial journalists, industry pros and select clients at Flûte Midtown Bar & Lounge ahead of an industry event last week. Despite the rain, more than 100 guests broke out their best evening-wear for a glamorous night with us.

The fizzy and fabulous happy hour featured a photo booth, h’ordeuvres and, of course, bubbly. The intimate space allowed for mixing and mingling with various financial journalists and professionals, including those from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Financial Times, MarketWatch, Bloomberg, and others, while snacking on sauteed shrimp, gourmet sliders and our office favorite: mini quesadillas.

In true Vested form, we dressed the mixed drinks with our classic green illuminated ice cubes, and served drinks and food alike with branded napkins for our newly revamped tech platform, Qwoted. Each napkin showcased the profile of a financial source, including our Chief Economist Milton Ezrati, how it might appear on the platform.

Vested’s resident DJ Tommy spun some tunes to help set the mood for guests to loosen up, grab a friend, and strike a pose in the photo booth. And what good is a photo booth without props? Our already dolled up ladies and gentleman grabbed masks, hats and some champagne for the camera.

We’re always looking for ways to connect with financial journalists and clients on a more personal level, and it’s time we really value, so parties like the one at Flûte are the perfect opportunity. But it’s not the only one.

Ahead of Money20/20 in Vegas, we hosted a VIP event at CHICA to celebrate the launch of Focus on Fintech Season 2, which is hosted by CEO of Vested Ventures Eric Hazard. The star-studded event gathered more than 200 of the leading fintech CEOs, heads of innovation and financial communications executives for a sneak peak of the show.

Earlier this year we hosted our Som-mer Soireé, a wine-tasting tour of France inside 745 5th Avenue. The space showcased the work of famous French architects Jean Nouvel and Thierry Despont and featured Master Sommerlier Pascaline Lepeltier. She is the co-author of “The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavor from Ground to Glass.

If you toasted with us at Flûte last week, take a look through our photos from the event below. See someone you know? Feel free to share!

Prioritize These 6 Things to Maximize Workplace Performance

This week, we’ll be posting a few articles focused on health in the workplace. In this piece, Associate Ashley Shahid illustrates the concept of work-life integration — and how the attention we pay to our health outside the office can influence our performance inside the office.

We expect a lot of Vesties, and want each teammate to bring their best selves to the office. This is the only way we can deliver top-notch work for clients, and scale the business to meet the industry need. But bringing one’s best self to the office means taking care of oneself outside of the office, as well. Here, I detail six things to prioritize outside the workplace that help to ensure maximum performance in the workplace.

Sleep

Sleep is NOT for the weak. Humans spend more than one-third of their lives asleep (and if you’re me, you spend the rest eating and monitoring for client news coverage). All jokes aside, sleep is a vital part of human life and according to the National Sleep Foundation, average adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for their brains to perform efficiently. It’s imperative to carve out time to sleep – even if you work long hours, even if you’ve set out to change the world. Aiming to improve the quality of your sleep? Try bedtime rituals, cutting caffeine at a reasonable time, and eliminating blue light in the bedroom. Recently, Account Executive Adrienne Kim and Senior Account Executive Emma Clarke have been excited about blue light-eliminating glasses in the office. Our bodies associate blue light with daytime, so the glasses can be especially useful at night, when blue light from screens can disrupt natural sleep patterns.

Social Life  

In a white-collar workplace, where many employees spend hours on end at a desk or in front of a computer, fostering balance by embracing social interaction is extremely important. Over the last decade, companies have taken cues to incorporate social areas in their offices. But even further than social interaction at work, it’s important to put yourself out there in your city.  Social life looks different for everyone. For some, it’s chatting with a coworker over coffee or cocktails. For others, it’s attending exciting parties and building bustling social calendars.

Either way, take care to balance work and your social life in a way that suits your needs (and know when to say no). Vested employees find balance through families, traveling, going to the gym, visiting restaurants and museums, joining industry organizations, taking classes, dog ownership and more. Socialization promotes an open mind, mitigates boredom, and increases general satisfaction in life. Director of Operations Adrienne Robbins loves to explore museums and restaurants, and attend concerts. And Senior Account Executive Ibby Hussain is well-versed in music festivals.

Travel

Travel is one of the most enriching experiences that a person can have. To see different places and cultures on TV or online is one thing, but to immerse, digest and internalize a culture for yourself takes the experience to the next level. Collectively, American waste 658 million vacation days a year. Take the time off! Here at Vested, we have an unlimited paid-time-off structure, and though there are parameters, we encourage employees to get out there and experience a new way of living, new economies, new customs and new views. Just this summer, Vested employees touched down in China, Myanmar, Peru, Portugal, and countless domestic destinations. There’s just one ask – you have to take Mini Milton along for the ride. Mini Milton is the bobblehead version of our Chief Economist, Milton Ezrati. Check out the adventures of Mini Milton here.

Education

We’re big on continuing education, and arrange Series 7 training for all our employees, but education doesn’t have to be work- or industry-specific. There is great value in learning and absorbing topics that truly interest you beyond your day-job. Whether that’s Italian Renaissance art or aviation history, it’s important to expand your knowledge base far and wide. Some ways that Vesties like to learn about new and exciting subjects are through podcasts, newsletters, books, visiting museums and exhibitions, and attending panels and talks. Many also take classes; Account Manager Seres Lu has taken art classes, and Senior Account Manager Marian Daniells has taken a class on comedy writing.

Giving Back

Stepping away and instead looking at the big picture — of life, of society, of welfare — can provide great perspective and mental relief. Philanthropy and charity work are some of the most rewarding ways to practice gratitude and refresh your mind. And there is no shortage of ways to give back and get involved in causes that about which you are passionate. Vesties give back in a multitude of ways including volunteering here in New York, volunteering abroad, and by donating to causes and organizations near and dear to our hearts. Education and children are particularly important to me, so when I’m not at Vested, I am working on my own non-profit called BNGLDSH, or with UNICEF where I’m a member of UNICEF Next Generation. Graduate Associate Caroline Andrews volunteers with women’s health organizations, and Senior Account Executive Biz Cozine participates in charity walks and hosts fundraisers to give back.

Physical Health

Last but certainly not least, take proactive care of your health. Take time to go the doctor or dentist. How are you supposed to be a rockstar in the office if you’re off, or constantly distracted by a cough or trying to navigate the work day in a fog of medicine? Will you be able to advise your clients on communications strategy with a broken voice? Take care of yourself. Vested just arranged a flu shot clinic to enable easy vaccinations for the team, but health care also includes exercising as well. A healthy human needs about 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week. Vested CEO of Professional Services Amber Roberts opts for hiking as her activity of choice. And many of us attend bi-weekly Finyasa yoga classes which provide an easy workout but also have a meditation component.

Curious about our other health-focused posts? Check out Biz Cozine’s piece on financial companies’ support for mental health programs, and Leslie Campisi’s piece on yoga and her experience working in financial services.  

 

GUEST POST: Leslie Campisi on ‘Winning,’ in Yoga and the Office

This week, we’ll be posting a few articles focused on health in the workplace. In this piece, Leslie Campisi of Anthemis Group, a professional yogi, certified boss-lady, and host of our bi-weekly Finyasa classes at the Vested NYC office, recounts her experience with yoga and working in New York. She asks: Why do we feel like we operate at our best under stressful conditions?

If Yoga Journal ever comes calling – hey y’all! – I’ll be sure to mention my first yoga instructor was Ms. Sally, the proprietor of Hebert’s Thinking School, a Montessori pre-k in Abbeville, Louisiana.

Now by best estimates in her late 70s, Sally still teaches. Still! (She also dances the zydeco brunch at Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge almost every Sunday…or so my sources tell me.)

My mom helped unearth this memory not too long ago. Me? Learning yoga? In preschool? In 80s Louisiana? What parallel universe is this?

Dad couldn’t help overhear our conversation. “Oh, I took classes, too,” he said, “Before work.” What? But then he stopped because, “You know, it just made me too damn relaxed. I couldn’t do my work. I just felt so…calm. So I stopped.”

Forty years and a quadruple bypass later, something tells me Dad may be regretting this decision.

Why do we feel like we operate at our best under stressful conditions?

I was my Dad’s daughter for way too long. When I moved to New York, I immediately poured all of my time and attention into my career. Exercise? Sure, I “joined Crunch,” as one does, and promptly waited in line a few months later to send my break-up letter via certified mail.

For years, I couldn’t figure out how to excel at work; be a good friend, daughter, sister, and girlfriend; do non-worky things I loved; and, oh yeah, take care of myself.

My body, I decided, was just a fleshy bucket that kept my brain functioning. What else do you need besides a brain to succeed? The brain was the money maker. The body just had to keep up and not get in the way.

While I was vain enough to make sure I never looked out of shape, I was. I slept poorly, drank too much Diet Coke (seriously, if you are reading this, give up the Diet Coke RIGHT NOW), ate whatever I wanted, and, exercise? Yeah, no.

Occasionally, I’d take a yoga class. And I enjoyed them because there was a mental element – perfect for a brain in a bucket. It was a little game. I realized that I could stretch into a pose juuuust as far as I liked, and no more, which felt a bit like self-care? Like the instructor wasn’t daring me to do more, which at first seemed like a trick?

“Just sit and be still.” “Play the middle.” “Don’t overdo it, maintain the integrity of the pose.”

I quietly explored doing less, caring less, not trying to “win” yoga, and looked around to see if anyone noticed. No one did. Wow. What the hell kind of exercise was this?

I also liked that I was trapped on the mat for an hour, just following someone else’s instructions. All I had to do was pay attention and move my body the way I was told. I didn’t have to be in charge or make any decisions. Just listen. What a relief.

In that way, yoga – along with getting a manicure – is one of the few remaining ways to disconnect from your phone for an extended stretch and not feel like a guilty jerk about it.

But then why do we feel like guilty jerks about it in the first place?

A few years ago, when I was running a tech PR agency, many hard-won management lessons finally came into focus. (Apologies to all of those I managed before such focus was achieved.)

One day, it hit me: this place was a greenhouse. And keeping a happy, well-functioning team required the right temperature.

In a greenhouse, you need just enough motivation, heat, to keep seedlings sprouting, but not enough to scorch them. And you must protect your beloved plants against a deep freeze at all costs – they may never recover.

What goes for teams, it follows, also goes for people. And so I looked at myself. Why did I sometimes think team members needed stress in order to do their best work?

Because, my friends, I did.

I assumed that was the “right way” to work, and therefore, the right standard to manage people to.

So I took a lesson from the yoga mat. I backed off. “What if I didn’t try to do a PERFECT warrior two? What if I just…”

…and this is where teams and yoga and stress all tie together. Cause when you find the right temperature – to work, to manage others, to do yoga. When you are not focused on “winning,” when you are just committed to being on the mat and not “performing” work, or performing Young Fit Yoga Lady in Leggings…

The pose just comes. It finds you as soon as you surrender the idea of achieving it.

If you work in tech, in finance, fintech, the agency world, PR… Screw it, if you just live in New York City (the ultimate capitalist gladiator course)… If you’ve had poor work role models, if you have a hunch that grinding your way through life is not the only way, but you can’t quite decipher what comes next, if you’ve had a change of heart and just want to get back into your body.

I see you, I was you. Let’s do yoga together.

Leslie’s next Finyasa session is at 7:45 on November 15. Check the schedule and register for free classes here. And be sure to check out the first health week piece from Biz Cozine.

Financial Companies Invest in Employees’ Mental Health

This week, we’ll be posting a few articles focused on health in the workplace. In this piece, Senior Account Executive Biz Cozine highlights FS brands with commendable mental health programs and the financial case for all companies implementing similar programs and policies.

The season of hand sanitizer and flu shots is upon us—thankfully Vested offers both in the office. The common cold, or even more serious physical illnesses, are generally what comes to mind when we think of “sick days.” But often overlooked is much needed PTO for mental health.

Last year, an email on the subject went unexpectedly viral, showcasing exactly how companies should handle the subject, but also shedding light on how few actually do. Madalyn Rose Parker, a web developer at Olark, tweeted a screenshot of her boss’s response after she said she was taking a few days to focus on her mental health.


“I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health,” she wrote. “Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”

“Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” CEO Ben Congleton wrote back. “Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

The tweet has nearly 45,000 likes and more than 15,000 retweets; but it also elicited a litany of responses from people who said their companies’ leaders would not offer a similar reply.

“Wow, I wish!!! I literally had a boss who literally told me he was going to fire me for having depression because it was ‘inconvenient,’” one young woman wrote in response to the tweet.

Congleton, surprised by just how rare his response seemed to be among business leaders, took to Medium to pen a follow-up piece, writing:

It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”

One in six Americans are medicated for mental health treatment, so it’s safe to say no company, or industry for that matter, is exempt from the issue. Finance and technology businesses have a reputation for being hyper-demanding and pushing employees to work to a point of exhaustion. But we did some digging into how companies are shifting their health benefits to prioritize mental health and were pleasantly surprised to find many leaders of the pack were financial services companies.

Barclays

Barclays, for example, wanted to show its 129,400 employees that mental health was not only something many of its employees struggled with—but that the company was on the fast-track to helping them. Through its “This Is Me” campaign, Barclays shared nearly 200 stories of its employees’ personal lives in an effort to destigmatize mental health in the workplace.

“The organization is retaining talent as more employees successfully return to work after mental health-related leaves of absence,” Amanda Popiela, author of The Conference Board’s “Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace” report, told Employee Benefit News.

RBS

Similarly, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) implemented its “Determined to Lead” program to help “address complex ‘people’ issues and ensure all employees had the quality of leadership needed to perform at their best,” which includes supporting their mental health needs. As of 2016, more than 15,000 managers were trained through this program to better serve 73,000 RBS employees globally.

RBS also supported the “Time to Change” pledge, a mental health campaign in England designed to mitigate the stigma around the issue; and offers a mental health program to equip line managers with the tools to identify, manage and support mental health problems in the workplace.

Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young also launched a mental illness awareness campaign titled “r u ok?” to help bolster company support, remove stigma and help those struggling understand they aren’t alone. Plus, the language around the campaign lends itself to non-intrusive, unassuming conversations about firm resources.

As these financial services companies continue to forge ahead, research around mental health and its effects on business suggest others do the same—and fast.

Failure to do so can negatively impact productivity at work, according to a study from the London School of Economics. Employees who feel they can openly talk about their depression with their managers are more productive, where those who can’t are found to be less productive. Similarly, the study found that people with depression were more likely to take more days off if their managers didn’t offer support, the study found.

Another study led by the World Health Organization found that globally, 12 billion working days will be lost due to depression and anxiety every year, unless improvements are made.

Failure to deal with employees’ mental health can also negatively affect a business’s bottom line. Between $17-$44 billion is lost in depression each year, where $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent caring for people with mental health issues” according to an article from the Harvard Business Review.

So while flu season will come and go, instances like Madalyn’s are an important reminder that mental health is just as important as physical health from both a wellness and a productivity standpoint.

Have an example of exceptional mental health care at your company? Share it with us on Twitter @Vested!

Eric Hazard Goes Under the Hoodie in ‘Focus on Fintech’ Season 2

Our President once said we need to “do better” at cyber. Thanks to CEO of Vested Ventures Eric Hazard and our friends at BrightTALK, we are. Er, at least we’re doing better at understanding what exactly “cyber” means.

In Episode 5 of Focus on Fintech, Eric sits down with a software engineer, a chief security scientist, and a tech CEO to understand the difference between cyber hackers and cyber criminals. The trio works with Eric to debunk myths about particular personas, including the iconic “hoodie” look, working out of their mom’s basement, and the assumption that all “hacking” is illegal. Plus, there’s an always welcomed cameo from our associate, Ashley Shahid.

You can also check out the full episode on BrightTALK’s website!

 

Asset Management Marketing and Content: Vested UK’s Latest Breakfast & Brainfood Event

This week, Vested UK partnered with Kurtosys for our third Breakfast & Brainfood event of the year (read more about our past events around consumer optimism and SME finance). This time around, we gathered together with senior asset management marketing professionals to discuss current trends in digital marketing and exchange ideas on what the future looks like in this constantly changing space.

To kick off the conversation, Kurtosys Head of Digital Richard Watts presented the latest findings from their fifth annual Asset Management Digital Marketing Survey. He was joined by BNY Mellon’s global head of digital, Dominic Traynor, whose insights and views acted as a catalyst for a fruitful exchange between participants. Here are my takeaways.

What does personalisation look like in the ASOS era?

It wasn’t a surprise to anyone around the table that personalisation and targeting were at the top of the priority list for the next 12 months. In a world where online retailers deliver a high level of personalisation and can anticipate or facilitate each customer’s next move, shouldn’t asset management firms be able to deliver the same to their clients? Spoiler alert, the answer is no. The combination of financial regulation and data privacy means that asset management marketers cannot operate as freely as their ASOS peers. So how do we create a more personalised experience for clients and prospects?

Leaving the more technical considerations to my colleagues at Kurtosys, understanding your audience and creating interesting and useful content is always a good start. It seems obvious, but too often content is dictated by what internal stakeholders want to talk about rather than what clients and prospects are actually interested in.

Evolution in clients’ online behaviour offers real opportunities to rethink your content, in terms of themes but also format. With many firms battling for investors attention — and trying to drive individuals to a firm’s website rather than third parties for information, the quality and accessibility of relevant information will continue to be key to driving traffic. The PR practitioner in me will of course always encourage firms to think thematically and produce thought-provoking content. The reality is that creating simpler content that actually answers your clients’ most commonly asked questions will play a huge part in improving a firm’s digital footprint and visitor experience. The good news is that with a little bit of collaborative work between PR, marketing and sales, all this can be combined and even tied directly to your products and services to drive sales. Should we call this integrated communications?

Digital maturity is about people, not tech

According to Kurtosys’ Asset Management Digital Marketing Survey, only 11% of respondents think that their company’s digital marketing currently is at a “mature” stage of its development. The majority, 52%, believe it’s in the “developing” stage while one in three (35%) think their company’s approach is still “basic.” As we discuss these metrics, someone around the table points out that digital marketing is perpetually evolving and that reaching maturity in this field would be like reaching Utopia: impossible. There is some truth in this statement but taking a more pragmatic look at the issue, budget and resources allocated can already give an indication of a marketing departments’ digital advancement.

But while firms work to tick all the marketing boxes regarding tools available, some may overlook the importance of investing time in finding and training the right people. The consensus around the table was that without the right expertise and culture in your team, having the most sophisticated tools will never deliver an efficient digital marketing strategy. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” famously said Peter Druker. That doesn’t mean that strategy and tools are not important, but building the right culture in your team and ensuring that other internal stakeholders buy into it is certainly a very good step towards digital marketing success.

A question mark remains over voice technology

Our conversation shifted to the future of voice search and SEO. Will we all soon be asking questions to our phones and watches on the train rather than quietly use our keyboard? The impact of voice technology was at the very bottom of the priority list in the survey, and there was clear consensus around the table. This came as a slight surprise considering that most studies expect voice search to steadily increase its share in the next few years, a forecast supported by increased sales in voice assistants like Alexa and Echo.

B2B marketers at least seem to be slightly underwhelmed by a technology perceived as a marketing gimmick, more cool than practical. But is the industry underestimating the trend and missing an opportunity to anticipate upcoming changes? Only time will tell, although we would certainly recommend that our marketer friends keep abreast of developments and ensure that their digital strategy is flexible enough to adapt to any changes from Google and other digital rainmakers.

We should embrace regulation and automation

When it comes to distributing content, most will recognise that the burden of GDPR was also a clear opportunity to review their database and refocus marketing efforts on targeting the right people with the right content. It will be particularly interesting to see the resulting evolution of click-through rates in the coming years.

This strategic shift from quantity to quality also bears the question of the future of automated processes in the day-to-day implementation of your strategy. Marketing automation came third on the list of priorities in this year’s survey, but do asset management marketers actually have enough good content to feed the machine? The general feeling is that this will increasingly become a challenge. Bringing the conversation back to integrated communications once again, a better collaboration between your sales, marketing and PR teams on content will go a long way in building a strong pipeline of high-quality content for your audience.

VestedUK Asset Management Marketing & Content

Social Media Gets Out the Vote

With less than a week to the 2018 midterm elections—which some think may flip the House—more Millennials and GenX-ers say they plan to vote, thanks to an unlikely motivator: Snapchat.

The social media platform, once known as a place to exchange, well, questionable photos, is trading its sexting reputation for something more serious. Over the last two weeks, Snapchat successfully helped more than 400,000 people register to vote through the app.

To make it happen, the app placed a button on the profiles of users’ 18 and over. The button led Snap users to TurboVote.org, a nonpartisan registration site that helps users determine where they’re eligible to vote, and navigate the registration process. Snapchat also sent videos to its users, urging them to vote on election day. Of the 418,000 people that registered with Snapchat’s prompting, 79,148 registered in Texas, 29,044 in Florida, 22,649 in Georgia and 17,994 in Ohio—all of which have competitive races for the midterms.

Snapchat isn’t alone in its efforts to mobilize voters. Earlier this month, Taylor Swift broke her political silence announcing her support for Tennessee’s Democratic candidates on Instagram. Although many were quick to brush off her endorsement as nonconsequential, the numbers tell a different story. Her post received more than 2 million likes, and Vote.org, which Swift linked to in the post, reported a more than 10x spike in traffic that day—from 14,000 visitors to 155,000. Just two days after Swift’s post, the organization said it had 169,000 new registrations.

Twitter also reported its hashtag, #beavoter, has doubled in usage compared to the 2016 election. The social media platform ran a series of promoted ads using the lingo during National Voter Registration Day, and while there’s no data to directly link the two, a record 800,000 people registered to vote on September 25.

Snapchat and Twitter are joined by Facebook—which just launched a “Get To Know Your Candidates” feature—as well as the dating apps Bumble and Tinder. Bumble now gives users the option of donning an “I am a voter” badge on their profile, while Tinder took it one step further. The dating app partnered with Rock the Vote to launch an in-app registration service as well as a “Swipe the Vote” feature, which allows users to swipe left or right on different issues to see which politician matched their views best.

Ramping up excitement among young people, and pushing voter registration is incredibly important. But we can’t help but wonder: will it matter for voter turnout?

Ahead of the election, it’s hard to tell. This recent opinion piece in MarketWatch argued it would, if only due to peer pressure.

“When this two-word statement shows up in the Facebook News Feed, a lot more people vote (this is the behavioral principle of social influence: we see that our friends voted and we want to do it, too),” behavioral scientists Ted Robertson and Dan Connolly write regarding Facebook’s “I Voted” sticker. “As long as it shows up in everyone’s feed, the button is a simple, helpful tool that encourages people to vote — not for a particular candidate, just to vote, full stop.”

While we wait to see how voter registration translates to poll attendance, it’s worth noting and applauding the civic work social media platforms have taken on. Were some initiatives perhaps more about building goodwill to combat political or PR issues? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be effective for driving action, as well. Whether it’s adding full public policy departments like Facebook and Snapchat, or taking Bumble’s approach of inspiring political conversations and self-expression, we look forward to seeing if and how these initiatives develop.

Headed to the polls because of something you saw on social (maybe even this blog post)? Let us know! Tweet us @vested.