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Saxo Q3 Outlook: This could end very badly…

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Saxo Q3 Outlook: This could end very badly…

Saxo Bank, the leading Fintech specialist focused on multi-asset trading and investment, has today published its Quarterly Outlook for global markets and key trading ideas for Q3 2018 with focus on waning global growth, falling credit impulses globally, and massive complacency on the risks of a trade war as we enter one of the most dangerous periods for the global economy since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Talk of ‘trade wars’ is widespread and Saxo points to the short-sightedness of the world’s governments as escalating trade tensions ahead of the November 6 US mid-term elections, where President Trump must prove he is getting the US ’a better deal’, are potentially leading to a more severe crisis.

Saxo’s Q3 Outlook covers the bank’s main asset classes: FX, equities, currencies, commodities, and bonds, as well as a range of central macro themes.

Commenting on this quarter’s outlook, Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist and CIO, Saxo Bank, said:

“There are no winners in a trade war, and the trend is pointing in the wrong direction as nationalist agendas erode the status of global institutional frameworks. History teaches us that this can end badly. If the loser is a big economy or a strong political power, they may impose restrictions – tariffs, for example – to counter the competitive disadvantage.”

“What makes trade issues more challenging today is that currencies no longer follow the paths that current account dynamics imply they should. A country running a current account surplus is supposed to see a strong/higher currency, but in today’s world, the big current account surplus economies all seek to avoid currency strength versus the global dollar standard to maintain competitiveness and avoid the risk of deflation.”

“It’s not just about Trump, either – it also has a lot to do with China’s move to raise its global profile along every axis. China’s chief approach to this vision is so far a mercantile one via its commitment to the One Belt, One Road plan. Beijing may have already given up on the US as a long-term export market – the longer it keeps its market share, the better. The US, of course, is now actively breaking down the very international organisations that have supported growth and globalisation since the end of World War II and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

“Consensus still holds that an outright trade war will be avoided, but this ignores the mid-term election in the US.” 

Equities – Technology is a unique sector

While global equities have experienced trouble this year, the technology sector continues to print solid returns for investors, thereby enhancing its attractiveness even more. An interesting feature of technology companies is their low debt leverage (net debt is minus 0 .62 for the MSCI World Information Technology index), which makes the sector the least sensitive to changes in monetary policy.

Peter Garnry, Head of Equity Strategy, said:

“The technology sector has the highest return on invested capital and uses less capital expenditure compared to others. The combination of these factors has pushed the valuation premium over global equities to 27%, which is a fair aggregate premium to pay for the only sector that delivers on growth every earnings season.

“Information technology is by far the most dominant sector in the US equity market but globally the sector is still second to financials with a market cap weight of 15.8%. Measured as industry groups, the group Software & Services is very close to overtaking Banks (9.9%) as the most important industry group in the world. The technology sector has changed from being dominated by hardware to being dominated by software which has much more attractive features for shareholders. We recommend investors stay overweight software.

“The biggest risks to the technology sector are regulation and global semiconductor disruption from an escalating trade war. At this point, the probabilities for both scenarios having major impacts on the technology sector in the short term are low.”

FX – A US dollar-negative trade war

The Trump administration’s aggressive stance on trade could prove a significant USD-negative as trade disruptions will also reduce the recycling of reserves into the greenback as US trade partners look to avoid adding to US dollar reserves or seek to avoid the currency entirely. The latter is particularly the case for China, which clearly has a long-term strategy aimed at raising the profile of its currency in its trade relationships.

John Hardy, Head of FX Strategy, said:

“As China’s energy import volumes mount steeply, the launch of the yuan-denominated oil contract in Q1 is arguably a gambit to eventually supplant the petrodollar with a petroyuan. As well, let’s recall that Trump’s picking of trade fights has been as frequent with traditional geopolitical allies like those within NAFTA and the EU as it has with those further afield.

“Trump focusing on Bank of Japan or European Central Bank policies and their implicit aim to keep the JPY and EUR weak could suddenly turn the tide in USDJPY and EURUSD. Admittedly, the flip-side risk is actually one of CNY weakness and USD strength versus Asian EM currencies if China chooses to abandon its strong yuan policy.”

Macro – Only China can save us

So far, China has only responded to the US measures by using the same tools, and without seeking escalation. If China really wanted a full-blown trade war, the most efficient method would be to send sanitary inspectors to local companies key to the US production chain and shut them down for a few weeks or months. The impact would certainly be much more devastating for US companies than any rise in tariffs decided by Beijing.

Christopher Dembik, Head of Macroeconomic Analysis, said:

“China seems inclined to play the appeasement card and be ready to support the global economy. On the back of weaker economic data and higher trade tensions, China has decided to ease its monetary policy for the third time this year. The country is doing what is has always done in instances of economic slowdown: it is stepping in to strengthen the economy and push credit impulse back into positive territory. China credit impulse is still in contraction, evolving at minus 1.9% of GDP, but it is slowly rising from its lowest point since 2010 and might be back above zero sooner than we think if the Chinese authorities consider that it is time to further support the economy against the trade war.

“China has still many options to counter the impact of trade tensions. It can resort either to more accommodative monetary policy through the RRR or scope for fiscal stimulus. Rising credit impulse should offset at least part of the effect of US tariffs on Chinese imports and is also expected to provide support to declining economic sectors, such as Chinese real estate, from 2019. It is complicated at this stage to second-guess the evolution of US trade policy but it is almost certain that China will do its best to avoid a full-blown trade war and related volatility because financial and monetary stability are crucial to its future economic development.”

 Currency – The AUD could benefit from Chinese tariffs on US goods

Australia has a deep relationship with China. Over 36% of the country’s shipments last year went to China, accounting for 8% of GDP. Rising tensions between the US and China are a concern for Australia as the economy is heavily reliant on exports of coal, iron ore, and education to China. But it is also a longstanding ally of the US. Chinese demand is not just for base metals – services exports to China from Australia have been rising on average 15% annually over the last decade. Additionally, tourism is on the move – last year there were 1.4 million Chinese tourists with Chinese visitors accounting for about 25% of total visitor spending. Consumer goods like wine, vitamins and other quality Australian food produce have also seen significant growth in value of exports of approximately 40% per year.

Eleanor Creagh, Market Strategist, said:

“Australia is well known for quality produce and some producers stand to gain as they could find that their products become more competitive for export to China. The agriculture sector has underperformed against almost all other asset classes for several years. We are in the midst of the second-longest economic expansion in history and the US has a growing twin deficit, household savings are low, and liquidity is contracting, which could pose problems in the long run. Given worries about the outlook for global growth and inflation potentially not meeting expectations, the sector could present an opportunity, particularly in Australia. In fact, commodities have never been so cheap relative to US stocks and commodities tend to rally later in the business cycle prior to a recession.

“Chinese tariffs on US agricultural products could provide an opening for Australian exporters to fill and for Australia to expand its economic imprint. If 25% tariffs are imposed on US suppliers to China, Australian beef exporters would offer a far more competitive price with Australia having an advantage of maritime trade routes through the APAC region.”

Commodities – Challenged commodities await outcome from developing trade war  

Following a strong start to the year, the outlook for commodities has become increasingly challenged as multiple headwinds have started to emerge. In crude oil, a multi-month rally ran out of steam after the Opec+ group of oil-producing nations agreed to increase production to stabilise the price. Precious and semi-precious metals, meanwhile, were challenged by continued dollar strength and the diverging direction of central bank rates. Industrial metals wobbled on emerging signs that some of the world’s biggest growth engines, not least China, showed signs of slowing.

Ole Hansen, Head of Commodity Strategy, said:

“The second half of 2019 could see crude oil initially supported by strong demand as well as continued geopolitical risks related to supply concerns from Venezuela and Iran as the deadline for the implementation of US sanctions approaches. These concerns may, however, eventually be replaced by a shifting focus towards demand growth which could begin to slow down among emerging market economies.

“Gold’s performance turned sharply lower during June as the yellow metal struggled to find a defence against the stronger dollar and Fed chair Powell’s hawkish stance on continued normalisation of US rates. Three quarters of gains were reversed after traders grew frustrated following the yellow metal’s inability to break key resistance above $1,360/oz on multiple occasions. The deteriorating outlook during June has challenged but not destroyed our positive outlook for gold. Gold’s negative correlation to the dollar remains a key challenge in the short term, but given the short-to- medium-term dollar-negative outlook, we believe this headwind will fade over the coming quarter.

“Silver remains stuck within a narrowing trading range that has been in place for the past 18+ months. Two attempts during the past quarter to break above its 200-day moving average helped trigger two major corrections. Sentiment on that basis remains challenged into Q3, especially if the latest signs of economic slowdown begin to translate into further weakness among industrial metals. Gold, however, holds the ultimate key to silver’s direction and given our views on the yellow metal, we see silver continuing to challenge resistance before eventually moving higher.”

 Bonds – With fear and volatility comes opportunity

Q3 will be a transitional period where there will be a continuous worsening of credit spreads that will ultimately lead to an inversion of the yield curve by the end of this year or the beginning of 2019. Although an inverted yield curve does not cause a recession in and of itself, Saxo believes that the combination of an increasingly hawkish Federal Reserve and an overheated economy may accelerate the path towards recession.

 Althea Spinozzi, Bonds Specialist, said:

“Positioning in riskier assets will continue to be light; investors will steer away from so-called supply chain economies and sectors sensitive to tariffs such as information technology and energy so long as there is no clarity regarding the rumbling trade war. Political noise in the EU area will also be monitored closely with a particular focus on Italy as we get closer to October, when the 2019 budget will be presented.

”At the same time, a volatile environment such as the current one still offers good opportunities. The sell-off that we have seen in the previous two quarters led to a progressive widening of credit spreads, hence value can be found in US investment grade bonds and selective high yield corporates. However, it is important to keep an eye on diversification and stay short on duration as credit spreads continue to be under more stress amid uncertainties and central bank policies.”

 s are the real losers during trade war altercations

Trade tariffs set by Trump have primarily been used primarily to affect China’s exports with additional products and possibly countries in the pipeline under the current administration. China is the number one trade partner globally for the United States, accounting for an average 45% of the US trade deficit since 2009 and 36% since 2001, when China joined the WTO.

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense 1

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.
  • Rob Harrison

    Rob Harrison

    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.

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Spotting the warning signs – minimising the risk of post-Covid corporate scandals

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Spotting the warning signs – minimising the risk of post-Covid corporate scandals 2

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.

Professor Guido Palazzo

Professor Guido Palazzo

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.

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Trust is a critical asset

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Trust is a critical asset 3

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
1 Pampers Baby Care 136  70
2 Meituan Lifestyle Platform 130  54
3 China Mobile Telecom Providers 129  36
4 Visa Payments 128  5
5 Netflix Entertainment 127  26
6 LIC Insurance 125  75
7 FedEx Logistics 124  88
8 Microsoft Technology 124  3
9 BCA Regional Banks 124  90
10 UPS Logistics 124  20

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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