By Christine Lagarde
Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
Good morning. I am delighted to be here. I would like to acknowledge Tom Curley, who is just stepping down as Associated Press president and CEO after a lifetime of distinguished service in journalism. A warm thanks to Kathleen Carroll too.
It is important for the IMF to maintain a good, open, dialogue with all members, especially the United States—our largest shareholder. You, the media, play an indispensible role in this engagement.
I come this morning with a simple message: the global economy needs a strong U.S. economy and strong U.S. economic leadership.
Time and again over the last century, we have seen that U.S. leadership has been indispensable—bringing people together around shared values and an abiding vision of human potential, and economic potential too.
We saw this with the Marshall Plan after the Second World War. We saw it during and after the Cold War. And we saw it with the U.S. driving the global economy over the past half century.
The result has been a more prosperous world. A more peaceful world. A better world.
Today, we stand at yet another moment in history, where the United States, working closely with its partner nations, can help lead the world to a better future.
These are trying times. The global economy is trying to emerge from the deepest and most painful economic crisis since the Great Depression. At the same time, the world is growing smaller and more interconnected by the day, meaning that economic disruption in one country can touch people all across the globe.
With this in mind, let me talk about three things this morning:
- First, where we stand in terms of the global economy.
- Second, why the United States, in particular, needs to be engaged.
- Third, why cooperation is so vital, and why I believe the IMF is especially valuable.
Let me begin with the global economy. It’s fair to say that things are looking a bit better than they did even a few months ago. We can see some signs of thaw—welcome signs after the longest, hardest, winter in a generation. We see this in Europe, with some encouraging signs of financial stabilization. We see this here in the United States, with some encouraging signs of stronger growth and employment.
But we should not delude ourselves into a false sense of security.
The recovery is still very fragile. The financial system in Europe is still under heavy strain. Debt is still too high, public and private. Stubbornly high unemployment is straining the seams of society. Rising oil prices have the potential to do a lot of damage.
What is crucial at this point is that policymakers use the breathing space to finish the job, and not lapse into complacency or insularity.
Remember, we are here because of courageous policy actions, not blind luck. I’m thinking about the coordinated actions taken through the G20, in which the United States played a leading role. I’m thinking of the bold actions taken by major central banks to restore calm, including the Fed in this country and the ECB in Europe.
So what should be done to keep things on course? I see three broad dimensions.
First, it’s about stability. We must ensure financial calm. And here, I welcome the decision by the Europeans to strengthen their firewall, which should help stop contagion. And this should support a stronger global firewall, achieved in part by increasing the IMF’s resources.
More generally, we also need a stronger and safer financial sector that puts societal interest ahead of its own financial gain. This means better, and more coordinated, regulation. We’ve already come some distance here. The nations of the world, including the United States, have joined forces to strengthen global regulatory standards for banks through the Basel III process. We now need effective implementation, in a coordinated manner, of what has been agreed and more agreement on the outstanding areas—including regulation of derivatives and the shadow banking system, and effective resolution of banks with cross border operations.
Second, it’s about growth. In the short run, what matters most for growth is demand. But we should not ignore the supply side either, especially to keep growth strong and steady.
Boosting growth means using monetary policy to support activity, especially with no real signs of inflation among the advanced economies.
It also means using fiscal policy to support activity wherever possible. Yes, most countries need to bring down debt over time, and yes, some countries under pressure have no choice but to cut deficits today. But a global undifferentiated rush to austerity will prove self defeating. Countries like the United States with low costs of borrowing should not move too quickly.
But let’s not be too complacent either—total U.S public debt already exceeds 100 percent of GDP. The country needs a stronger push to fix its public finances in the years ahead, including by curbing the growth of entitlement spending and raising more revenue.
In the United States also, the recovery is being held back by the burden of household debt. Some of the statistics here are staggering—for example, about 1.5 million mortgages are seriously delinquent. More must be done to ease that burden. I’m thinking of actions to encourage mortgage writedowns and ease refinancing—and the U.S. administration has recently proposed new measures with those objectives. Aggressively implementing these measures can help avoid costly foreclosures, improve household finances, and boost consumption.
Remember, banks were helped so they could lend more; homeowners should be helped so they can spend more.
Third, it’s about jobs. Nothing enriches like gainful employment, so jobs must be a priority. This is a daunting challenge. Over 200 million people across the world today can’t find work. That includes nearly 13 million people right here in the United States. The plight of young jobseekers throughout the world is especially painful.
Growth must also become more inclusive, so that everybody benefits from rising tides. This is important all over the world, not least in the hopeful yearnings associated with the Arab Spring.
A world of interconnections
Americans might ask themselves: why should what happens in the rest of the world concern us? Don’t we have our own problems?
The answer is simple: in today’s world, we cannot afford the luxury of staying in our own mental backyards.
Think about it. When I was growing up, the world was a simpler place. Your livelihood depended pretty much on what was happening around you, in your own community, in your own country.
No longer. Today, a densely-woven web of interconnections zigzags across the globe. Since 1980, the volume of world trade has increased fivefold. By the time of the crisis, global capital flows were more than triple the level of 1995.
These connections are everywhere. As just one small example, think about how cars are made. A modern car needs up to 40,000 different parts, and the loss of a single part can bring the global supply chain to a standstill. So when a deadly earthquake in Japan knocked some parts out of commission, suburban American auto dealers started running out of cars.
On a larger scale, it’s fair to say that the story of the global financial crisis is really the story of global interconnections.
Perhaps more than any other country, the United States is intertwined in this global nexus, affecting—and being affected by—developments all across the world.
This is mainly due to its dominant financial sector. Our analysis shows that foreign banks hold about $5½ trillion of U.S. assets, while American banks have $2½ trillion of foreign assets. These are big numbers, showing that banking illnesses can be easily transmitted across borders. As we have so painfully seen, illnesses that come from the financial sector can be especially virulent—with large, widespread, and immediate effects.
The United States is also heavily integrated into the global trade network. It accounts for 11 percent of global trade.
These connections are particularly strong with Europe. About a fifth of U.S. exports go to Europe. And while two-thirds of EU trade is internal to the union, exports to the United States account for almost a fifth of the remainder.
Before the crisis, U.S. S&P500 companies were earning 20 percent of their profits in Europe. Five of the top ten overseas markets for U.S. investment are in Europe. European-owned companies in the United States employ about 3.5 million people.
So if the European economy falters, the American recovery and American jobs would be in jeopardy. So America has a large stake in how Europe fares—and how the world fares.
Cooperation and the IMF
This brings me to a larger point—integration poses great risks, but it also promises great rewards. Heightened global cooperation is the key.
History has shown us that when nations face common challenges in a spirit of solidarity, everybody wins. When nations pull apart in acrimony, going their own way and seeking their own advantage, everybody loses.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself”.
In the middle of the last century, two visionaries saw this clearly—an American named Harry Dexter White and Englishman called John Maynard Keynes. Having lived through the hardship and devastation of the first half of the century—when countries pulled apart and sometimes tore each other apart—they were determined to build a better world. I’m talking about the founders of the IMF.
The idea behind the IMF was simple: if countries worked together in the common interest and helped each other in times of need, then everyone would prosper together.
If this idea was important in 1944, it is equally important today.
So what is the IMF?
It is an economic club and a giant credit union, where the 187 member countries cooperate with one single mandate—global financial stability. We act as a conduit for countries to pool resources and provide a lifeline to members in need.
The IMF has been in the trenches from the start, helping our members overcome all kinds of challenges, great and small.
When the European nations clutched onto the Marshall Plan to climb back to economic health and vitality after a devastating war, we were there.
When the newly independent countries in Africa and Asia sought to find their footing in the postwar years, full of hope and optimism, we were there.
When Latin American countries struggled to break free from a morass of debt in the 1980s, we were there.
When the Berlin Wall came crashing down, and new nations stepped over the rubble into a bright new world, trying to build institutions from the bottom up, we were there.
And when the global economy almost collapsed three short years ago, we were there too.
Today, the world needs the IMF more than ever. Why? We can provide a circle of protection against global turbulence, and help members adjust to changing circumstances with minimal disruption.
But to do this effectively in today’s world, we need more resources. As I said earlier, now that the Europeans have moved first with their firewall, the time has come to increase our firepower. The ratio of Fund quotas to world GDP is significantly lower today than in the past. Sixty years ago, it was as much as 3-4 times higher. We’ve a lot of ground to make up.
As you know better than me, there is a great tradition in rural America—a tradition of “barn raising”, whereby neighbors all band together to build barns. Barns were large, costly, and hard to build, but absolutely essential for farming. The lesson is simple: together, the community can accomplish what the individual cannot, and everybody benefits. We should think of pooling our global resources in precisely these terms.
I must also point out that the IMF is a good investment for all our members, including the United States. Your money is not drawn upon until needed. Your money earns interest. Your money is used prudently—our programs always carry rigorous conditions to ensure their effectiveness.
No member country has ever lost money by contributing to IMF resources—and I assure you that will not change on my watch.
One last point: as the tectonic plates shift in the global economy—with dynamic emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, and China assuming an ever-greater role—these changes are also being reflected at the IMF. Our members have approved reforms to increase the quota share of these countries. Now countries must implement these reforms, and we are urging all to make progress by the time of our Annual Meetings later this year.
Even with these reforms, the United States will retain its leadership role as our largest shareholder.
Let me leave you with three thoughts.
First, cooperation can deliver. Over the course of the 20th century, we saw what can be accomplished when the global community pulls together, especially when the United States takes a leading role. Now is another moment for U.S. economic leadership.
Second, in a world riven by an infinity of interconnections, the ideal of cooperation is as urgent as when John F. Kennedy said, “Geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies”. The time has come for the nations of the world to stand together again in the face of a major economic challenge, and with the U.S. as a lead partner.
Third, the IMF was founded more than half a century ago for precisely this purpose. We are here to serve our members—including the United States of America.
Support us. Use us. Work with us.
Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense
By Rob Harrison, MD UK & Ireland, SAP Concur
The last few months have been an exercise in adaptability for businesses across the UK. With the sudden mandate to work from home, company processes that were ingrained in employees’ day-to-day routines were either put on hold or turned upside down. The new office normal now includes virtual meetings, conversing through instant messaging instead of in the hallway, and the redefining of “business casual” attire.
Many of the processes that have undergone changes fall into the category of travel and expense. With most business travel on hold and the nature of expenses changing, finance managers have had to adjust policies and practices to accommodate the new world of work. Recent SAP Concur research found that 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. Examples of travel and expense related changes that were made at the beginning of work from home mandates include:
- A halt to business travel and its associated expenses.
- Temporarily ending expensed meals for business lunches, dinners, or in-office meetings.
- Increase in office expenses like monitors and chairs as employees furnish their home offices.
- New expenses to consider like Internet and cell phone bills for employees who must work from home.
Now, as companies begin thinking about return to work plans, finance managers are discovering it’s not simply business as usual again. SAP Concur research found that many expect finance will return to normal quicker than general workplace practices, but vast majority see the process taking up to 12 months. New policies and processes need to be put in place to accommodate travel restrictions and changes in expenses. While finance managers need to stay flexible as the business environment continues to evolve, spend control and compliance should still be a high priority.
Here are a few questions that can help finance managers prepare for return to work while keeping control and compliance top of mind:
- What will travel look like for the company? Finance managers must work with travel and HR counterparts to determine the need for employee travel, if at all, and how to keep employees safe. At SAP Concur, we surveyed 500 UK business travellers and found that health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%. Clear guidelines should be developed, even if they are temporary or evolving, so it’s clear who can travel, when they can travel, and how they can travel. Duty of care plans should also be re-evaluated and businesses should ensure they know at all times where employees are traveling for business and how they can communicate with them in the event of an emergency.
- Who needs to approve travel and expenses? While it may be temporary, businesses may have to implement a more stringent approval policy for travel and other expenses. Due to health concerns related to travel and the need to conserve cash flow, business leaders like CFOs may want to have final approval over all travel and expenses until the situation stabilises. To help ensure new approval processes don’t cause delays and inefficiencies, finance managers should implement an automated solution that streamlines the process and allows business leaders to review and approve travel requests, expenses, and invoices right from their phones. According to SAP Concur research, 11% of UK businesses implemented some automation of financial processes in response to COVID-19. This is definitely set to increase post-pandemic.
What types of expenses are within policy? Prior to social distancing, employees may have been allowed to take clients out to dinner. In-person team meetings held during the lunch hour, may have included expensed lunches. As employees return to work, finance managers need to determine if these activities and expenses will be allowed again. Clear guidelines must be put in place and expense policies need to be updated to reflect any changes.
- What happens to home office items that were purchased? While new office equipment may have been purchased for employees’ home offices, they remain the business’s property and what to do with them as employees return to work needs to be determined. Perhaps employees will continue to work from home a few days a week and need to keep the equipment to ensure productivity. However, if a full return to work is expected, finance managers have options that can maximise their asset investment and possibly save the company money, like replacing old office equipment with the new purchases, reselling to a used office furniture company, or donating to a non-profit.
- How can cost control be ensured? For many businesses, cash flow will be tight for the foreseeable future. Spend needs to be managed to help ensure recovery and stability. An important aspect of controlling costs is having full visibility of expenses throughout the company. Implementing an automated spend management solution that integrates expense and invoice management brings together a business’s spend, giving finance managers an understanding of where they can save, where to renegotiate, and where to redirect budgets based on plans and priorities.
Once finance managers have asked themselves the questions above and determined how they want to approach travel and expense procedures, it’s vital they create guidelines and communicate clearly to employees. Compliance can only be ensured if employees have a clear understanding of what has and has not changed with travel and expense policies and what’s expected as they return to work.
Spotting the warning signs – minimising the risk of post-Covid corporate scandals
By Professor Guido Palazzo is Academic Director at Executive Education HEC Lausanne.
A recent report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that almost seven out of 10 anti-fraud professionals have experienced or observed an increase in fraud levels during the Covid pandemic, with a-quarter saying this increase has been significant. Almost all of those questioned (93%) said they expected an increase in fraud over the next 12 months and nearly three-quarters said that preventing, detecting, and investigating fraud has become significantly more difficult.
For corporations, banks and financial directors, this is a clear warning signal of new risks ahead. Indeed, it’s not difficult to predict that the birth of next big corporate scandal will be traced back to this period. As the ACFE put it, the pandemic is “a perfect storm for fraud. Pressures motivating employee fraud are high at the same time that defenses intended to safeguard against fraud have been weakened.”
If we want to stop corporate misconduct, where should we be focusing our efforts? What should we do to minimise the chances of corporate scandals, fraud and unethical decision-making? Compliance and risk management are obviously critical in detecting fraud, but given that corporate scandals keep happening, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether we need to take a different, more holistic approach to combat unethical behaviour.
Bad Apples or Toxic Cultures?
Most compliance is based on the premise that we need to keep bad people in check and to root out the ‘bad apples’ who usually get blamed when there’s a corporate scandal. When the scandal breaks, we all ask, “how was that possible? What were they thinking?” And we also tell ourselves that we could never behave like that and that it could never happen in our organisation – it’s not our problem.
But are those who succumb to this temptation really ‘bad apples’ or rather people like you and I? Most models of (un)ethical decision-making assume that people make rational choices and are able to evaluate their decisions from a moral point of view. However, if you made a list of the character traits of a rule breaker in an organisation and then compared it to a list of your own, you might be surprised to find a lot of overlap.
When we examine corporate scandals, what we invariably see is good people doing bad things in highly stressful circumstances. If you put sufficient pressure on an individual and they start making ill-advised decisions or behaving unethically, the first reaction is fear as they realise what they are doing is wrong. But then they will start to rationalise their actions to justify what they are doing. Over time, such behaviour becomes normalised and they convince themselves that there is no wrongdoing involved. That’s something that my HEC Lausanne colleagues, Franciska Krings and Ulrich Hoffrage, and I have termed ‘ethical blindness’, and it is a phenomenon that plays a fundamental role in systematic organisational wrongdoing.
The trouble with conventional technical and regulatory compliance strategies is that while policies, codes of conduct and formal processes are all very necessary, they don’t take into consideration the importance of leadership behaviour or human psychology. We can’t pre-empt those who succumb to the temptation to do bad things in difficult circumstances unless we understand why they behave in the way they do. If we simply attribute problems to the psychological failings of ‘bad apples’ while ignoring the context, culture and leadership style which made their wrongdoing possible, then the barrel will still be contagious.
So what can be done to reduce the chances of new corporate scandals emerging in these challenging times? One take-away from previous scandals is the learning how to read the warning signals. This entails a deep understanding the psychological and emotional factors behind human risk, which surprisingly is not included in most compliance and ethics training. These small signals viewed in isolation may seem insignificant, but over time they can combine to create a dysfunctional context and culture where it can be all too easy for people to slip into the dark side.
Develop a Speak Up Culture
One of the most potent antidotes to that sort of dysfunction and the ethical blindness it encourages is a culture in which individuals at all levels feel able to speak up to their superiors about problems and ethical issues without fear of retaliation. But that will only happen if their own bosses are prepared to speak up and the tone for this must be set at the top. So, the critical question every executive needs to ask themselves is, “do I speak up?” Then they need to reflect on whether people come to them and speak up freely without fear of the consequences. That’s an approach to compliance that offers real protection against the onset of ethical blindness in a way that no conventional strategy can match.
This understanding of human risk element also elevates compliance to a leadership topic with all kinds of positive implications beyond compliance. Whilst on the one hand, this approach helps to boost the status of the compliance and risk function, my experience of working with senior executives is that when they start to understand the psychological elements of the dark side, it shines a light on their own behaviour. One thing they realise is that, yes, it perhaps could have been them doing those things in one of those scandals. The other is understanding that their leadership style can unwittingly creating the context for unethical behaviour.
That’s one reason I invited two former senior executives who were involved in corporate scandals to share their first-hand experience as teachers on our new certificate in ethics and compliance. Andy Fastow is the former CFO of Enron and Richard Bistrong is a former sales executive involved in an international bribery scandal. Amongst other things, the valuable insights of people like these can help others to understand how risks accumulate over time and how this can impact the integrity of an organisation. Their stories also highlight the temptation that people can face as a result of the tension between the pressure to succeed and the pressure to comply.
Traditionally, compliance training and development has been technical and regulatory – what are the rules, what are people allowed to do or not allowed to do, and how do we demonstrate to the authorities that we did everything possible to ensure that people understand the laws and regulations? But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that it’s time for a multi-disciplinary approach if we are to start redressing the balance between the legal dimension of risk management and the human element.
Trust is a critical asset
By Graham Staplehurst, Global Strategy Director, BrandZ, explains how it’s evolving.
Trust is what makes us return to the same brands, particularly during times of uncertainty and crisis.
Pampers is an instinctive choice for many parents. It’s the go-to global nappy brand whether they shop online or in-store. By our reckoning, it’s also the world’s most trusted brand, driven primarily through its perceived superiority over competitors, which it has honed through a relentless focus on technological improvements that make its products the best in the category.
BrandZ has been tracking Trust since 1998 because it’s a critical ingredient in delivering both reassurance and simplifying brand choice, thereby boosting brand value. It’s also become extra critical in delivering business performance at a time when consumers are uncertain and often anxious.
Even brands that haven’t been available during Covid-19 lockdowns, brands that are already trusted, have found that they are more reassuring to consumers when they start returning to market with new safety measures such as protecting staff, which will be seen as evidence that the brand will take similar steps to protect customers.
With a growing demand from consumers for more responsible corporate behaviour, this in turn amplifies the need for brands to make a positive difference.
Alongside Pampers, other brands in this year’s BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands ranking that have strengthened their trust and responsibility credentials include the Indian bank HDFC, which has supported customer initiatives across its consumer and business banking and life insurance operations – with innovations such as mobile ATMs, and DHL, which has proven itself even more essential as a delivery service during the COVID-19 outbreak.
New brands too have managed to grow Trust relatively rapidly. Second in the Top 10 most trusted brands was Chinese lifestyle brand Meituan with a trust score of 130. This delivery and online ordering brand, which was launched just over a decade ago, has clearly demonstrated its understanding of what consumers want and developed a strong reputation for customer care.
Then there’s streaming service Netflix – founded in 1997 but which only became a streaming service in 2007 – which scored 127 and was the fifth most trusted brand in our ranking. Netflix has created a strong association with being open and honest compared to other ‘content’ platforms, despite the fact that it uses customer’s personal data to suggest future viewing options.
Top 10 Most Trusted Brands in the BrandZ Top 100 Ranking 2020
|Position||Brand||Category||Trust Score (Average is 100)||Position in Top 100 ranking|
|3||China Mobile||Telecom Providers||129||36|
What defines trust?
The nature of trust is evolving with ‘responsibility’ to consumers forming an increasingly large proportion of what builds perceptions of trust. This amplifies the need for brands in all categories to act as a positive force in the world.
Traditionally, consumers trusted well-established brands based on two factors:
- Proven expertise, the knowledge that the brand will deliver on its brand promise, reliably and consistently over time.
- Corporate responsibility, which is about the business behind the brand. Does it show concern over the environment, its employees, and so on?
In recent years, the latter factor has become increasingly important. It is now three times more important to corporate reputation than 10 years ago and accounts for 40% of reputation overall, with environmental and social responsibility the most important component, alongside employee responsibility and the supply chain.
Companies such as Toyota, with its emphasis on sustainability, Nike, with its campaigns around social responsibility, and FedEx focusing on employee responsibility, highlight the fact that responsibility is high on the agenda for many brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands, which has been tracking rises and falls in brand value via a mix of millions of consumer interviews and financial performance data since 2006.
Such actions explain why trust in the Top 100 brands has been increasing not declining, filling the gap as trust declines in other institutions like government and the media. This is being driven largely by consumer concerns over the bigger issues including sustainability and climate change that society faces today.
One of the challenges that we face in assessing trust is understanding how and why consumers will trust brands they hardly know or have never used? Why do we trust Uber the first time if we’ve never used the platform before, or Airbnb the first time we rent an apartment or holiday accommodation?
The answer is that there are three elements that build trust and confidence when a brand is new to a market. These are:
- Identifying with the needs and values of consumers
- Operating with integrity and honesty
- Inclusivity, i.e. treating every type of consumer equally.
New brands that can develop these associations not only build trust rapidly and more strongly but also tend to outperform their competitors in growing their brand value.
As a result of this new understanding we have added an additional pillar to our previous understanding of Trust builders. Alongside proven expertise and corporate responsibility, we have a new quality of ‘inspiring expectation’ driven by our three key factors of identification, integrity and inclusivity.
Airbnb, for example, has long had promoted a platform of inclusivity for both renters and users of properties on the platform, helping it to build an overall Consumer Trust Index of up to 105 – and 110+ on the specific dimension of Inclusivity.
Flying Fish in South Africa is a premium flavoured beer that has gone from a launch in October 2013 to being the second-most drunk brand in the country, with trust equal to the vastly more established Castle and Carling brands. It has appealed to a new generation of beer drinkers with strong integrity and inclusion, using a playful mix of young men and women in its messaging to portray South Africa’s multicultural society.
Brands have a unique opportunity to earn valuable trust and create change, providing this is seen to be genuine. Being sincere, empathetic and ensuring your brand remains consistent with its core values will ensure your corporate reputation is not compromised.
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