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How to make the UK’s cashless economy work

By Paul Heywood, Managing Director and VP of EMEA, Dyn

Cashless payments are undoubtedly growing in popularity. In August this year, 89 million contactless transactions were made – representing growth over the year of 235.9% and more than £633 million was spent using the technology. With such growth in popularity, it was not all that surprising to learn that cashless payments have overtaken notes and coins as the UK’s preferred form of payment. The launch of Apple Pay this year will, too, have a significant impact on these figures, signalling that an entirely cashless economy will soon be upon us.

But, in this cashless economy, are merchants and financial organisations readily prepared to support electronic payments and services through the digital supply chain? There is already an increased dependency on digital assets from websites, mobile apps and connected devices. Simultaneously, advancements in cloud and content distribution technology have allowed organisations to support the growing digital economy. Every digitally-connected business faces the challenge of ensuring their Internet Performance is consistent across all platforms and borders.

Any organisation looking to provide an exceptional end-user experience across their digital properties will ensure a well-executed technology strategy is in place. However, not all are aware that Internet Performance plays a vital role in this. Internet Performance bolsters the entire digital process ensuring that, regardless of demand, time or physical location, all transactions and updates reliant on the public Internet work properly.  It supports the business’ ability to monitor, control and optimise online infrastructures. In this way, organisations can guarantee that their online solutions will be consistently available, efficient and secure – even across complex, distributed cloud/IT infrastructure deployments.

An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises

Internet Performance can be defined as meeting customer demands and expectations through secure, fast, reliable and efficient assets delivered via the web. Traffic spikes have a reputation for slowing and possibly crashing websites or access to important data. Whilst the issue may lie outside an organisation’s own network, if it affects performance it ultimately affects revenue and brand reputation – something the financial sector cannot afford to compromise. If banks and merchants’ digital services suffer downtime or delays for whatever reason, both businesses and consumers will not hesitate to move their business to another organisation. To mitigate this risk, organisations need to have a strategy in place for load balancing and failover in the cloud.

Security is another priority we should turn our attention to. A YouGov study carried out earlier this year found that nearly of consumers (47%) would not use their phone to make payments, with 81% citing concerns over security being their main reason for not doing so. Of course, you only have to read the news to see why consumers have these reservations – data theft and cybercrime is rife and banks are very much aware of this. Data can be hijacked and delivered incorrectly when it is misrouted through the improper Domain Name System (DNS). This can result in a DDoS attack (which can either be malicious or accidental) where the source is more than one – and often thousands – of unique IP addresses. Alerting organisations of performance issues as soon as they happen will be crucial for mitigating potential risks and allow organisations to take effective, reactive measures to remedy any issues.

Meeting customer expectations

Delivering a consistent and efficient end-user experience is essential to completing transactions rapidly and reliable – and thus, maintaining customer loyalty and satisfaction. Whether a customer connects to online financial services through a web browser or mobile app, few are aware that the content displayed and transmitted is from multiple locations, including data centres, CDNs and cloud providers, which can often be hosted in different locations around the world. Customers expect a predictable and simple user experience, so if they cannot depend on consistency across their banking experience, they will abandon the app or service. Here, controlling traffic via the DNS layer can ensure the best response times so that customers receive the same experience, regardless of their location.

Scale does not necessarily lead to Internet Performance issues and high latencies if the right precautions are made. Financial organisations need to plan for the best cloud, datacentres and CDN hosting vendors based on their target customer locations. Vendors’ services may vary in speed, access to routing tables and the ability to securely deliver data to its intended target. Some Internet intelligence tools can objectively analyse this information, so companies can optimise their digital assets so that their customers receive the best online experience possible.

The bottom line

The Payments Council predicts that by 2024, just 34% of consumer payments will be paid in cash. Therefore, the risk of digital banking suffering downtime or delays needs to be completely eliminated as there will be fewer alternative payment methods to rely on. Never before has it been so important for financial services organisations to monitor and control their cloud providers, CDNs and datacentres as part of their Internet Performance monitoring. If Internet Performance is not a priority, banks and merchants risk losing out on reliability, reputation and trust—factors that keep valuable customers returning.

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Climate extremes seen harming unborn babies in Brazil’s Amazon



Climate extremes seen harming unborn babies in Brazil's Amazon 1

By Jack Graham

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new study that links extreme rains with lower birth weights in Brazil’s Amazon region underscores the long-term health impacts of weather extremes connected to climate change, researchers said on Monday.

Exceptionally heavy rain and floods during pregnancy were linked to lower birth weight and premature births in Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, according to the researchers from Britain’s Lancaster University and the FIOCRUZ health research institute.

They compared nearly 300,000 births over 11 years with local weather data and found babies born after extreme rainfall were more likely to have low birth weights, which is linked to worse educational, health and even income attainment as adults.

Even non-extreme intense rainfall was linked to a 40% higher chance of a child being low birth-weight, according to the study, published on Monday in the Nature Sustainability journal.

Co-author Luke Parry said heavy rains and flooding could cause increases in infectious diseases like malaria, shortages of food and mental health issues in pregnant women, leading to lower birth weights.

“It’s an example of climate injustice, because these mothers and these communities are very, very far from deforestation frontiers in the Amazon,” Parry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“They’ve contributed very little to climate change but are being hit first and worst,” he added, saying he had been “surprised by just how severe these impacts are”.

Severe flooding on the Amazon river is five times more common than just a few decades ago, according to a 2018 paper in the journal Science Advances.

Last week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the neighbouring state of Acre in the Brazilian rainforest, which is under a state of emergency after heavy flooding.

Parry said local people had adapted their lifestyles to deal with climate change, but that “the extent of the extreme river levels and rainfalls has basically exceeded people’s adaptive capacities”.

The negative impacts were even worse for adolescent and indigenous mothers.

The study said the “long-term political neglect of provincial Amazonia” and “uneven development in Brazil” needed to be addressed to tackle the “double burden” of climate change and health inequalities.

It said policy interventions should include antenatal health coverage and transport for rural teenagers to finish high school, as well as improved early warning systems for floods.

(Reporting by Jack Graham; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit


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Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek



Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek 2

By Ron Bousso and Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global energy leaders and other luminaries like incoming Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy focused on the tough road to transforming world economies to a lower-carbon future at the kickoff of the world’s largest energy conference on Monday.

Numerous speakers at CERAWeek were prepared to talk about the energy transition and the need for future investment in renewables. But many oil and gas executives were vocal about the need for more fossil-fuel investment in coming years, even as a way of leading the world to a lower-carbon future.

“One of the most urgent things we can do to combat global warming is to back carbon-emitting companies that are committed to get to net zero,” said Bernard Looney, CEO of BP Plc, one of several European oil majors to have committed to ambitious targets of cutting emissions to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

CERAWeek was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped billions of people from traveling and wiped out one-fifth of worldwide demand for fuel.

The U.S. fossil fuel industry is still reeling after tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The pandemic has instead accelerated the transition to renewable fuels and electrification of key elements of energy use. Global majors have been playing catch-up, responding to demands from investors to lower production of fuels that contribute to global warming.

The primary message on Monday, however, was that achieving net zero – where polluting emissions are offset by technologies that absorb carbon dioxide for the atmosphere – is going to be difficult.

“There just isn’t yet enough renewable energy to fuel all of the energy that people need. That’s in developed countries,” said Andy Jassy, head of Inc’s cloud division who will succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO this summer.

He said the company had announced its goal for net zero emissions at a time when it had not entirely figured out how to get there.

Since the 2019 conference, many of the world’s major oil companies have set ambitious goals to shift new investments to technologies that will reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. BP has largely jettisoned its oil exploration team; U.S. auto giant General Motors Co announced plans to stop making gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in 15 years.

Oil companies have come under increasing pressure from shareholders, governments and activists to show how they are changing their businesses from fossil fuels toward renewables, and to accelerate that transition. However, numerous speakers warned that the viability of certain technologies, such as hydrogen, remains far in the future.

Hydrogen “is a very small business at this point in time, it will scale up, and it will take a long time before it is a business that is large enough to start making a real difference on sort of planetary scale,” said Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.

Other speakers expected to appear include several representatives from national oil companies along with CEOs of Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, though many are participating in panels focusing on the energy transition.

Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, was scheduled to appear, but backed out, citing a conflict.

Some CEOs said more oil and gas investment was necessary.

“We don’t think peak oil is around the corner – we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years,” said John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp. “We’re not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future,” he said, explaining that prices would need to rise to support that investment.

(Reporting By Ron Bousso, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marianna Parraga; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Stephanie Kelly, Jeffrey Dastin and Gary McWilliams; writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion



AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion 3

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca sold its stake in rival COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna for roughly $1 billion over the course of last year as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker cashed in on the meteoric rise in the U.S. company’s shares.

London-listed AstraZeneca recorded $1.38 billion in equity portfolio sales last year, with “a large proportion” of it coming from the Moderna sale, according its latest annual report.

Shares in Moderna, which went public in 2018 at $23 per share, surged more than five times last year after it began working on a COVID-19 vaccine based on a new mRNA technology that won U.S. approval in December.

Its shot relies on synthetic genes to send a message to the body’s immune system to build immunity and can be produced at a scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines like AstraZeneca’s.

Last week, Moderna said it was expecting $18.4 billion in sales from the vaccine this year, putting it on track for its first profit since its founding in 2010.

AstraZeneca began investing in Moderna in 2013, paying $240 million upfront and by the end of 2019 had built up its stake to 7.65%.

That would be worth about $3.2 billion based on Moderna’s 2020 closing stock price of $104.47, Reuters calculation showed.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine being developed with Oxford University has not been authorized in the United States and uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common cold virus to deliver immunity-building proteins to the body.

In December, U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said it had sold its equity investment in Moderna, but did not disclose the details of the sale proceeds.

Asset manager Baillie Gifford on Monday disclosed in a separate filing it now held 11% passive stake in Moderna as of Feb. 26.

Moderna shares were down 5% at $146.62 in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee, Pushkala Aripaka, Kanishka Singh and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Arun Koyyur)


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