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Interview with Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB,

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jeanQuestion: How would you describe the situation of the euro?
Answer: We are in an economic and monetary union. From my point of view, Monetary Union has worked well: we have delivered price stability – fully in line with our definition of “below, but close to 2% – during the first 12 years of the euro, the euro is a solid and credible currency, and inflation expectations are solidly anchored over a horizon of five or ten years. The Economic Union, for its part, has shown its weaknesses during this global crisis and it has to improve very significantly. All pillars of the Economic Union have to be reinforced: first, we need a strengthened Stability and Growth Pact to ensure a rigorous surveillance of fiscal policies; second, we need a close surveillance of the competitiveness indicators and of the imbalances in the euro area, something that we have been calling for all over these last years, since 2005; third, we need to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms, which is an objective for the economic union (the “27”) as a whole, as well as in the euro area (the “17”), in order to elevate the growth potential of European economies.
Q. What’s behind the dissatisfaction that seems to be affecting the euro?
A. I think there is criticism of the behaviour of some governments regarding their own economic and fiscal policies, and also on others, because they did not exert appropriately the surveillance on their peers. . But I don’t think the criticism concerns the single currency, which is a clear success. I have seen many surveys in different countries showing that citizens are supporting the euro. That is the case in Spain.
Q. Does rising debt indicate that the euro may be at risk?
A. As I said, the euro is a solid and credible currency. The economy of the euro area as a whole is in a better fiscal position than the US or Japan, with a likely deficit of 4.6% this year compared with around twice that figure in the US or Japan. Sovereign debt problems are global, not just a European problem. The paradox is that, while fiscal performance at the consolidated European level is relatively good, we have in the euro area some countries which are clearly in a difficult situation, and that require a major adjustment.
Q. Despite your rejection of a possible restructuring of Greek debt, markets are insisting that that is the only way out.
A. The ECB’s position has been clear from the beginning. We have an adjustment plan set by the IMF and the Commission. What we are asking for is that the plan be implemented as strictly as possible, as it was negotiated, with rigorous efforts being made by Greece. The adjustment, engaged by this country is essential for its sustainable, medium term growth, job creation and the stability in the euro area. And there is no other way than the strict application of this adjustment plan.
Q. What can we expect from the summit in Brussels on Monday?
A. The Ecofin and the Eurogroup will have to examine a number of issues, including the programme for Portugal, which has been negotiated by the IMF and the Commission, in liaison with the ECB. The ECB attaches a great importance to the fact that this programme has been approved by various political sensitivities in Portugal.
Q. Has it been ruled out that a country could leave the euro?
A. I already said that I consider this an absurd hypothesis. But let me come back to the euro. If, in 1998, we had been told that for the 12 first years of the euro, we would have a single currency that keeps remarkably its value, with average inflation below 2%, a better result than in any Member State in the past 50 years, many people would probably have said that it was too good to be true. Today it’s a reality and these achievements are documented.
Q. Is the standing of the ECB at risk because of the rating cuts for the countries from which you have collateral?
A. We are applying our own rules on the matter and are paying close attention to risk management. It is also useful to bear in mind that we are talking about three economies that account for around 6% of the GDP. The other 94% of the GDP of the EU are in a very different position.
Q. The ECB has embarked on debt purchasing but is doing it intermittently.
A. I’ve always said we are transparent in the management of this issue. I have no other comment.
Q. But that is a function that is not supposed to be performed by the ECB, it is not part of the mandate. Should another institution take on that task?
A. All these non-standard measures have been decided by the Governing Council to better transmit our monetary policy decisions, in times of financial crisis. It is fully in line with our mandate. These measures, including the full allotment of liquidity at fixed rate, are transitory by nature, as I say regularly in the name of the Governing Council.
Q. Three years after the start of the crisis, where are we now?
A. Since the recovery started in the third quarter of 2009, Europe’s economy has experienced often upward revisions to previous projections of real growth. Quarter after quarter, the data has frequently exceeded expectations. This has been particularly evident in the first quarter of this year, with an increase of 0.8% more than projected, and several economies in the euro area with better results, even significantly better than expected. That includes Spain, which is growing a little bit better than anticipated. It is no time for complacency, we have to be very cautious and we do not declare victory, but I think that’s encouraging. As for the role of the ECB, we are responsible for issuing the currency for 17 countries and 331 million citizens. That is a huge responsibility and it is normal that sometimes there are countries that go faster and others that go slower. What matters is that it’s not always the same ones who go rapidly or slowly because that would be unsustainable. There was a time when Greece and Ireland were growing very rapidly and then it was Germany that was lagging. So it’s good that there are now countries, including Germany, which are growing again fast and quickly recovering the ground they lost, while others need to undertake indispensable major adjustments. Again, what counts is that in the euro area as a whole the recovery is confirmed. But let us not be complacent, we have hard work ahead of us.
Q. Oil prices have fallen by more than USD 10 since the ECB decided to raise rates. How do you see price stability at the moment, with raw material prices so volatile?
A. The decline in oil prices is good news: it reduces both the inflationary impact and the depressive effect of high oil prices on the economy. That said, there is a high degree of volatility. The present price level is high; 2.8% in the euro area. We cannot do anything immediately to reduce the price of oil and raw material. We have to ensure that price setters and social partners fully understand that we are there to deliver price stability in the medium term at less than 2%, close to 2%. It would be for them a big mistake to think that the present hump in the CPI inflation signals the level of inflation in the medium term. Because we are there to take decisions that will prevent this. That’s why there is an independent central bank – to ensure price stability over the medium term.
Q. Are you seeing excessive wage increases?
A. Let me say something to the people of Spain: we are providing price stability in line with our definition, an average of 1.97% in the first 12 years, we are credible for the future five to ten years, and that has to be accounted for in all decision-making within the euro area. If prices and costs in a particular economy are permanently above that level, with spiralling of nominal inflation and nominal wages, in particular there will be unavoidable losses in competitiveness and less growth and less job creation.
Q. Does that apply to Spain in particular?
A. To all countries, without exception, and of course to Spain also. This is a very important message.
Q. So those involved in wage negotiations should forget about national price data.
A. All price-setters, in particular the social partners, must be conscious that there is a benchmark for the euro area inflation as a whole, which is less than 2%, close to 2%. If the unit labour costs in particular are not in line with the evolution of the euro area as a whole, a loss of competitiveness of the economy will be unavoidable, with its consequences in terms of growth and jobs creation. Again, the worst that could happen in terms of growth, is a cost/price signalling over and above the average of the euro area.
Q. That is the conclusion that many people are drawing about the situation in Spain, do you share it?
A. Some of these phenomena happened in the past undoubtedly. It seems to me now that everybody understands that competitiveness of the productive sector is essential for the economy.
Q. It is doubtful that the citizens of southern Europe understand the rise in rates resulting from the threat of inflation.
A. I think they understand. Because if we were to lose credibility in price stability, then inflation expectations would not be anchored and all medium- and long-term market interest rates in Europe, would rise, driven by those higher inflation expectations. Then we would all, I insist, all without exceptions, be suffering the consequences of a less favourable financial environment and its impact on growth and job creation.
Q. This is very reminiscent of the situation in July 2008. Are you still defending that rise in interest rates?
A. Of course it was an appropriate decision. The collapse of Lehman Brothers came later and we took the right measures to cope with the dramatic crisis. We decided to raise rates to counter an unwelcome increase in inflation expectations. By taking that step we confirmed that we are extremely determined to anchor inflation expectations. It helped us considerably during the crisis in preserving us both from the materialisation of the risk of inflation as well as the materialisation of the risk of deflation – which was a very important element to surmount the crisis.
Q. Jürgen Stark has said that the debt crisis is our own Lehman Brothers.
A. We are experiencing at the global level a second episode of the crisis. After the private-sector crisis we are now seeing tensions in the public sector and amongst sovereign risks. This is a global phenomenon, observed in advanced economies. It’s crucial to deal with these tensions correctly, especially in Europe.
Q. Let’s turn to Spain. Don’t the markets understand the reforms that have been made?
A. From our point of view, there are three key issues: fiscal policy, the financial sector and structural reforms. Spain is moving in these three areas, it has made decisions; it has set goals and has done a lot, and has still work ahead of it. I’d say that this is appreciated by external observers, who believe that the country is going in the right direction. But this is no time for complacency. On the fiscal side, the government has been convincing. That being said, measures have to be followed up and the deficit target of 3% in 2013 is essential for credibility. Regarding the financial sector, there is a huge difference in perception compared with a few months ago, but work has not been finished there yet. As for structural reforms, they are absolutely essential because it is through them that growth potential increases. There are reforms that need to be tackled, especially labour market reform, which is being discussed by the social partners. All this is true for Spain, but also for Europe, which has to push forward bolder structural reforms.
Q. Isn’t fiscal orthodoxy, the surge of austerity, condemning Europe to slow growth for a long time?
A. On the contrary, fiscal soundness is essential for confidence, and confidence is the most important ingredient for sustainable growth. Financial soundness and structural reforms are also of essence. But speaking for the past, let me give you two or three figures. In the past 12 years, GDP per capita has grown in Europe at the same pace as in the US, around 1%. In the labour market, despite the years of crisis, the euro area has created around 14 million jobs since the birth of the euro: about 6 million more than in the US. This is again no time for complacency. And nobody can say that we are satisfied when unemployment is still so high.
Q. Is Spain the red line in the EU?
A. Spain in the past has shown a remarkable capacity for innovation, for creativity, growth and job creation. It is a very dynamic country. That makes me optimistic, provided Spain continues to implement very actively and convincingly its programme in three areas already mentioned: fiscal soundness, banks’ reshaping, and structural reforms.
Q. And the savings banks are the red line in Spain?
A. In this sense, Spain has three main challenges. As regards the savings banks challenge, a lot of hard work has already been done and should continue to be very actively performed.
Q. Especially after the leaks in Germany, do you think all the European partners, especially the political leaders, are aware of the danger of the current fiscal situation?
A. I appeal to all governments to show a high sense of responsibility, both individually and collectively, and to keep a strong sense of direction.
Q. At first you didn’t seem very happy about the IMF involvement in the bailouts. Some were even calling for a European Monetary Fund. Why did you change your point of view?
A. The worst thing would have been benign neglect by the Europeans, which was a big danger at the beginning. Having overcome this temptation, the rescue brought together the conditionality and the financial support from the IMF and the European partners, which was necessary.
Q. On the subject of eurobonds, Europe has no treasury, unlike the United States. Do you think that a step could be taken in that direction?
A. At the present stage of European integration, with the current institutional framework, we consider that a major improvement in governance, particularly in fiscal policy, is absolutely decisive. At this stage we are not in favour of euro bonds.
Q. What is your opinion of Zapatero?
A. It is not for the President of the ECB to judge or give good marks or bad marks to the prime ministers! We are fiercely independent from the executive branches and we are issuing the currency for all the people, all the 17 nations, and political sensitivities.
Q. What about Draghi?
A. The appointment of the President of the ECB is the responsibility of the Heads of State and Government, after having had the advice of the Parliament and the Governing Council of the ECB.
Q. Does he have the right profile?
A. We have a great Governing Council, with very wise and experienced colleagues. And I have to say that Miguel [Fernández Ordóñez], José Manuel [González-Páramo], and Mario [Draghi] and all others have the right team spirit. And it is this very good team spirit which counts.
Q. What will you do after 31 October?
A. We’ll see. I have a very hard job ahead of me. There’s no time for complacency in many ways. I still have five and a half month! I will be completely absorbed by my work until the end of October.
Q. In these eight years, what has been the worst moment? May 2010?
A. We have had major challenges from the start. Immediately after my arrival the largest countries in the euro area, Germany, France and Italy, were asking for an easing and even a dismantling of the Stability and Growth Pact. We had to fight that. And there were other big challenges afterwards; the crisis has certainly been one. This is the greatest crisis since the Second World War. It could have been even worse – the worst crisis since First World War – if we had not made the decisions we made. They were times that required a great deal of effort. It has been very rewarding to see the team spirit of the Governing Council and of the staff of the ECB and of the other central banks of the Eurosystem. There have been some intensely challenging moments, during which my greatest satisfaction has been to see a formidable dedication to the euro and to Europe, in serving our 331 million fellow citizens..
Q. What is your legacy?
A. It’s not up to me to talk about that.
Copyright © for the entire content of this website: European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out

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Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out 1

By Shawn Welch, Vice President and General Manager of Hi-Cone Worldwide

As industries across the world are facing unprecedented uncertainty and anticipating the economic implications of the current health crisis, business leaders have the unique opportunity to seize the chance to make lasting, positive changes and re-interpret the business challenges in a positive way – without forgetting or minimising the toll the pandemic has taken. When trying to identify a way forward, the future must be sustainable. We must take this opportunity to find a more sustainable way for businesses and manufacturers to survive.

Environmental and economic concern have only increased the gap on what consumers want – more sustainability – and how much progress businesses can make without risking their viability. However, rather than giving up on ambitious goals, maybe we need to reframe the way we look at sustainability. So far, businesses have tended to react to consumer demands, often without looking into the long-term implications and research-based due diligence one would expect. Therefore, now is the right time to be more deliberate: to continue on the path towards a truly sustainable ‘new normal’, businesses need to consider the bottom line impact more than ever before and truly invest in changing their business models to become more sustainable.

Shawn Welch

Shawn Welch

To meet the UN’s ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, businesses ultimately must thrive – working towards establishing a circular economy remains crucial. Instead of a linear ‘extract, use, dispose’ approach, materials need to be respected and re-used as many times as possible, which is only possible if products are designed for re-use, re-manufacturing, repair or restarting. After all, any and all consumption comes at a price. In manufacturing, processes draw on resources to produce items that, once they have served their purpose, become surplus to requirements. Yet, to ignore this is to take an incomplete view of sustainability: instead, materials are extracted from waste to re-enter production processes. Reuse and recycling initiatives are central to this and great strides have been made in raising awareness of this need. The full environmental cost of production and consumption includes the choice of materials themselves but also the level of carbon emissions generated, and energy consumed.

Once products and processes have redesigned for a circular approach, this initial investment will often easily be recouped, especially if we start with looking at the facts when starting this crucial process. To make the Circular Economy a focus for any business very often means changing the business model. Here, investing in research and development is vital. In the packaging industry, for example, we are seeing that customers and consumers are increasingly more focused on sustainability, and that surprising changes can unlock societal and business value. Through minimising a product’s carbon footprint or making recycling easier for consumers, lifecycle-assessment-based product redesigns or using recycled plastics instead of larger quantities of cardboard, companies are identifying these more creative options and enjoying the long-lasting benefits that come with implementing them. In any case, leadership is key. A research-driven approach gets everyone on-board and seeing management committing to these goals as part of business plans helps cement these. At a recent Reuters Responsible Business Summit virtual panel, I was part of an interesting conversation. Here, Yolanda Malone, Vice President Global R&D Snacks PKG, PepsiCo, discussed how leaders have to drive the behaviours within the organisation and the tone for the culture. She explained that her sustainable plastics vision is a world where plastics never become waste. Only through putting the mantra of “reduce, recycle, rethink and reinvent” can we bring circular products to consumer. She stressed that, if we don’t reinvent, we will fall back into old habits.

Of course, consumer behaviours play a part and the easier the solution, the more likely consumers will get behind it. End consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of packaging. So, to be truly circular, we need to take into account the entire lifecycle. Mindset change needs to continue to happen. Consumers need to be clear about what their choices are. To achieve this, we must change our businesses from the inside out, allowing for close collaboration inside and outside of our organisations. Other organisations – such as governments and recycling organisations – will need to be involved in businesses’ efforts, multiplying the impact our investments will have. We must address all aspects of sustainability and, for example, have better recycling, a focus on infrastructure and emphasis on consumer education. To recover, reuse and recycle, the R&D must be in place and dedicated to sustainability. Partnerships are important as we, as other leading global companies realise, cannot do this alone. Collaboration is key when investing in a more sustainable, more Circular, future.

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Securing Information Throughout the Supply Chain – Preventing Supplier Vulnerabilities 

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By Adam Strange, Data Classification Specialist, HelpSystems 

The financial services sector is experiencing extreme disruption coupled with rapid innovation as established institutions strive to become more agile and meet evolving customer demand. At the same time, new market entrants compete fiercely for customers. Increasing operational flexibility, through the deployment of cloud infrastructure or via digital transformation initiatives, is critical for future competitiveness but it has also driven regulatory and security challenges, particularly around working with suppliers.

That said, the benefits of a diverse, interconnected supply chain are compelling: agility, speed, and cost reduction all weigh on the positive side of the equation, prompting financial institutions to pursue close, collaborative relationships with suppliers, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands.

Weakness in the supply chain

On the negative side is the increased cyber threat when enterprises expose their networks to their supply chain. In our modern interconnected digital ecosystems, most financial organisations have many supply chain dependencies and it only takes one of these to have cybersecurity vulnerabilities to bring a business to its knees.

As a result, breaches originating in third parties are common and costly – a Ponemon Institute/IBM study found that breaches being caused by a third party was the top factor that amplified the cost of a breach, adding an average of $370,000 to the breach cost.

Concern around the supply chain was also evidenced in a recent report we have just issued, whereby we interviewed 250 CISOs and CIOs from financial institutions about the cybersecurity challenges they face and nearly half (46%) said that cybersecurity weaknesses in the supply chain had the biggest potential to cause the most damage in the next 12 months.

But sharing information with suppliers is essential for the supply chain to function. Most financial services organisations go to great lengths to secure intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data internally, yet when this information is shared across the supply chain, does it get the same robust attention?

Further amplified by COVID-19

Financial service organisations have always been a key target for cyber attacks.  Our research showed that since COVID-19 hit, the risk has elevated further, with 45% of the respondents seeing increased cybersecurity attacks during this period. Likewise, hackers are rejecting frontal assaults on well-defended walls in favour of infiltrating networks via vulnerabilities in suppliers.

But financial services organisations must maintain reputations and ensure customer trust. Firms are keen to demonstrate that they are protecting customer assets, providing an ultra-reliable service and working with trustworthy partners. So, what can they do to better protect their supplier ecosystem?

At the very least, they need to ensure basic controls are implemented around their suppliers’ IT infrastructure.  For example, they must ensure suppliers maintain a secure infrastructure with a minimum of Cyber Essentials or the equivalent US CIS certification controls. Cyber Essentials defines a set of controls which, when implemented, provide organisations with basic protection from the most prevalent forms of threats, focusing on threats which require low levels of attacker skill, and which are widely available online.

Likewise, they need to ensure good information management controls are in place and this begins with accurate information/data classification. After all, how can you apply appropriate controls to your information unless you know what it is and where it is?

How ISO27001 helps organisations put in place a data classification process

The international standard on information security, ISO27001, describes the basic ingredients for data classification to ensure the data receives the appropriate level of protection in accordance with its importance to the organisation. It comprises three basic elements:

  • Classification of data – in terms of legal requirements, value, criticality and sensitivity to unauthorised disclosure or modification.
  • Labelling of data – an appropriate set of procedures for information labelling should be developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.
  • Handling of assets – procedures for the handling of assets developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.

Adoption of this methodology will help financial services organisations and their supply chain take a more data-centric information security approach. However, there are essentially four key stages for implementing a data risk assurance supply chain approach and these are:

 1. Approval – in organisations with complex supply chains senior management, vendor management, procurement and information security will all need to support a robust risk-based information management approach. Details of previous incidents and their impact alongside the business benefits will be essential to gain stakeholder buy in.

 2. Preparation – Organisations should start with Tier 1 suppliers and initially identify the contracts with the highest business impact/risk. They should identify and record information repositories and the data that they contain together with the responsible business owners. Define a business taxonomy based on information categories of that data and include supply chain factors such as what information categories are shared.

For example, they need to understand the business impact of compromise against each of the information categories. Have any suppliers suffered security incidents? What assurance mechanisms are in place? Once all this information is collated the organisation can create a data classification policy and define a set of controls for each data category.

 3. Discovery – Select each data category and identify the associated contracts. Then prioritise the data category based on the risk assessment and verify that the data security controls and arrangements for each data category and contract meet the overall requirements. Once complete, hand over the contract for inclusion in the vendor management cycle.

4. Embed process – the overall objective is to embed information risk management into the procurement lifecycle from start to finish. Therefore, whenever a new contract is created there are a number of actions required which embed data risk at each stage of the bid, tender, procurement, evaluation, implementation and termination phases of the contract.

To summarise, organisations should start by researching the information risk and security frameworks such as ISO27001 and others. They should then focus on defining their business taxonomy and data categories together with the business impact of compromise to help develop a data classification scheme. Finally, they should implement the data classification scheme and embed data risk management into the procurement lifecycle processes from start to finish. By effectively embedding data risk management and categorisation into their procurement and vendor management processes, they are preventing their suppliers’ vulnerabilities becoming their own and are more effectively securing data in the supply chain.

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19 3

Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.

“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.

According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.

The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.

Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:

  • Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
  • 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
  • Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
  • Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.

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