By Anne Watson, COO at In Touch Networks
Specialist expertise has never been more valuable at executive level. The business landscape is becoming increasingly complex – frequent political and economic curveballs, our thirst for instant information and the continuing march of technology has created a challenging environment for companies large and small, with the pressure evident in the boardroom. Issues such as the recent cyber security breaches affected organisations across the world and left business leaders perplexed at to what they could do proactively address challenges like this which have previously been unforeseen.
The danger for any management team in this climate is focusing a disproportionate amount of effort on tackling ‘here-and-now’ challenges, and neglecting to future-proof the business.
Executives must consider how to manage new challenges effectively, ensuring that due attention can be spent looking to the future. To do this, management teams are increasingly reassessing the expertise within their C-suite. Are their people in possession of the skills needed to tackle new and emerging challenges? Is undue time being spent on issues that perhaps could be better handled, much more quickly, by someone with specialist expertise?
In Touch Networks is a group of professional networks for senior executives – one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK, it has changed how non-executive directors are recruited. Anne Watson, COO of In Touch Networks, says recent discussions with senior management teams and non-executive directors have highlighted a shift taking place, with more of a focus on specific skills. As a result, we are likely to see the introduction of new C-suite roles requiring specialist expertise, and also the recruitment of non-executive directors (NEDs) based on such skills rather than focusing on previous ‘big ticket’ roles.
Anne highlights some of the new C-suite roles we could see in the boardroom:
Chief Customer Officer (CCO)
There is a thirst for instant information and the proliferation of social media has given consumers huge power; C-suite executives are acutely aware of customers’ ability to influence the perception of their brand, and their power to create chaos, as evidenced during the recent US Airlines debacle. With multiple marketing avenues and ‘touchpoints’ on the average brand’s customer journey, smart businesses will begin to open their eyes to the benefits of a C-suite customer champion.
Chief Automation Officers (CAO)
At SXSW, Microsoft’s Kate Crawford spoke about AI, saying “We have to make artificial intelligence systems more transparent and accountable.” Her thoughts echo the concerns of many executives who recognise the ability of AI to revolutionise their business, but are wary of its potential to create unforeseen challenges. As the technology continues to develop, driven by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon and others, we are likely to see the introduction of specialist AI experts to the Boardroom table.
Chief Freelance Relationships Officer (CFRO)
Beyond the ‘gig economy’ and its intricacies, there is an important change taking place with the growth in self-employment. It’s a change that has seen huge benefits to businesses who have embraced this new, more flexible way of working, relying on a network of talented, experienced freelancers. The trend is predicted to increase, with co-working spaces popping up in cities across the country to keep pace with demand. However, executives are mindful of the fact that much of their talent lies outside the business, and are acutely aware of the importance of keeping freelance talent happy. As the preference for self-employment gathers pace, we are likely to see the introduction of the CFRO into the C-suites of larger companies, tasked with ensuring their business retains top talent.
Chief Cyber Security Officer (CSSO)
Cyber security is not a new issue, but is certainly a growing one. Yet, despite 75 per cent of UK businesses admitting that cyber-security is a priority for their senior management, only 3 per cent employ a specialist cyber security officer, with responsibility instead given to either the CEO or CFO. Furthermore, just under half of UK businesses identified at least one cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months, yet only 11 per cent have a cyber security incident management strategy in place. New York recently introduced cyber security accountability for Wall Street executives; we can expect the UK to follow suit, with the more commonplace introduction of the CSSO at board-level.
Chief Futurist Officer (CFUO)
We have long been in awe of the futurist, their ability to study the future and make predictions based on mathematical analysis and assessment of future trends. With continuing political and socio-economic developments and the advancement of technology, we will see companies following in the footsteps of Google, Wired and Cisco, appointing dedicated Futurists, joining the C-suite to provide powerful advice and counsel to senior management teams.
Nvidia forecasts sales above estimates as gaming chip sales surge
By Chavi Mehta and Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) – Nvidia Corp forecast better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter revenue on Wednesday, expecting strong demand for its graphics chips used in gaming PCs and artificial intelligence chips for data centers.
As people wait for COVID-19 vaccine rollouts around the world, stay-at-home orders have helped sustain the demand for chips used in personal computers, gaming devices and data center infrastructure that enables remote working.
The Santa Clara, California-based company’s gaming chips have also regained popularity for mining cryptocurrency, a trend Nvidia is trying to counter by throttling its gaming chips ability to mine for currencies and instead offering specialty chips for mining.
While Nvidia was long known for its gaming graphic chips, its aggressive push into artificial intelligence chips that handle tasks such as speech and image recognition in data centers has helped it become the most valuable semiconductor maker by market capitalization.
It has eclipsed rivals Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices.
Shares were up 3% at $597.50 in extended trading after the results.
On a conference call with investors, Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said that a global chip crunch made it hard to keep the company’s flagship gaming chips introduced last fall in stock and that the chips would likely remain in tight supply through the fiscal first quarter.
The company also said it will make a change to its gaming chips starting with the RTX-3060s to make them less efficient for mining cryptocurrency. The company said it will instead introduce mining-specific chips.
“We would like GeForce GPUs (graphics processing units) to end up with gamers,” Kress said.
Kress said analysts have estimated that cryptocurrency mining contributed between $100 million and $300 million to Nvidia’s sales in the fiscal fourth quarter. The company expects the new mining chips to generate about $50 million revenue in its fiscal first quarter, Kress added.
The company expects first-quarter revenue of $5.30 billion, plus or minus 2%, above analysts’ average estimate of $4.51 billion.
Revenue in the quarter ended on Jan. 31 rose to $5 billion from $3.11 billion a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting $4.82 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Revenue in the company’s gaming segment was $2.5 billion, above analyst estimates of $2.36 billion, according to data from FactSet. Data center revenue was $1.9 billion, above estimates of $1.84 billion according to FactSet data.
(Reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Maju Samuel and Will Dunham)
Running boom to help Puma recover after slow start
By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN (Reuters) – German sportswear company Puma expects the financial impact from coronavirus lockdowns to last well into the second quarter, but believes global growth in running should help to support a strong improvement after that.
“We clearly see a running boom in the whole world,” Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden told journalists, noting that yoga and other outdoor activities are also doing well. He expects the healthy living trend to continue even after the pandemic.
Gulden said his optimism is underlined by the fact that orders for 2021 are up almost 30% compared to a year ago, with bookings for running products particularly high.
However, there is still uncertainty about when lockdowns in Europe will end, with about half of the stores selling its products currently closed in its home region.
For the full year, Puma expects at least a moderate increase in sales in constant currency, with an upside potential, and a significant improvement for both its operating and net profit compared with 2020.
Shares in Puma were down 2.9% at 1100 GMT.
“The wording on outlook looks softer than we had anticipated, even by Puma’s cautious standards,” said Jefferies analyst James Grzinic.
Gulden noted that a shortage of shipping containers bringing products made in Asia would impact margins, with freight rates likely to double in the next 12 months.
Puma will put a stronger focus on the women’s market in future, Gulden said, creating shoes better modelled to female feet for running and soccer and capitalising on partnerships with celebrities like singer Dua Lipa and model Cara Delevingne.
Gulden admitted Puma had been slow in creating its own app, but it plans to launch one towards the end of the year, further supporting online sales, which grew by 63% in 2020.
Rival Nike in December raised its full-year sales forecast after demand for outdoor sportswear drove an 84% surge in online sales.
Gulden said he is hopeful that the Olympics will go ahead in Japan and the European soccer championship will also take place after both were postponed from 2020.
($1 = 0.8226 euros)
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Mark Potter and Keith Weir)
ExxonMobil to sell some UK, North Sea assets to HitecVision for over $1 billion
(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp said on Wednesday it would sell its non-operating interest in its UK and North Sea exploration and production assets to private-equity fund HitecVision for more than $1 billion.
Exxon has been looking to sell its oil and gas assets since late 2019, seeking to free up cash to focus on a handful of mega-projects.
The deal includes ownership interests in 14 producing fields operated primarily by Shell as well as interests in the associated infrastructure. Exxon could also receive about $300 million in contingent payments based on a potential for increase in commodity prices.
Exxon’s share of production from these fields was about 38,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2019, the company said.
Exxon said it would retain its non-operated share in upstream assets in the southern part of the North Sea as well as its interest in the Shell Esso gas and liquids (SEGAL) infrastructure, which supplies ethane to the company’s Fife ethylene plant.
HitecVision, in partnership with Eni, had bought Exxon’s Norwegian North Sea assets for $4.5 billion in 2019.
Initially, Exxon hoped to raise more than $2 billion from the sale, which was planned for late 2019. In June 2020 sources told Reuters that the portfolio was more likely to fetch $1 to $1.5 billion given the oil price weakness last year.
(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)
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